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ANNUAL REPORT 



OF THE 



American Historical Association 



?; 



POt 



THE YEAR 1918 



IN TWO VOLUMES 

VOL. II 

THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN VAN BUREN 
EDITED BY JOHN Q. FITCPATRJCK 



# •** . a 

• » «• »* * »* " ' 



WASHINGTON 
GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE 

1920 



7 73. Si 
743448 



Washington, D. C, /t*w€ 0, 1919. 
To the Executive Council of the American Historical Association, 

Gentlemen: In recommending to you for publication the Auto- 
biography of Martin Van Buren, the Historical Manuscripts Com- 
mission begs leave to acknowledge the public spirit of Mrs. Smith 
Thompson Van Buren, of Fishkill, N. Y., who placed this valuable 
document in the Library of Congress, and the courteous assistance 
of the Library, which offers a typewritten copy of it supplemented 
with an introduction and notes prepared by a member of the staff. 
Very respectfully yours, 

Justin H. Smith, Chairman 
2 



y, v «# 



r*: 



•-• 



• •• •• 

• •• • • 

*,• • • • • 



PREFATORY NOTE. 

The autobiography of Martin Van Buren was presented to the 
Library of Congress by Mrs. Smith Thompson Van Buren, of Fish- 
'kill, New York, in 1906. At the same time the Van Buren Papers 
were presented to the Library by Mrs. Smith Thompson Van Buren 
and Dr. and Mrs. Stuyvesant Fish Morris, of New York City. A 
Calendar of the Papers was published by the Library in 1910. 

The Autobiography is the manuscript copy, in seven folio vol- 
umes (1247 pages), made by Smith Thompson Van Buren, the son 
and literary executor of the President, from Van Buren's original 
draft. Portions of Volumes VI and VII are in another hand, and 
the last fifteen pages of the manuscript have many changes and 
corrections by Van Buren himself. 

The first two hundred and fifty-nine pages of this copy were 
edited by Mr. Worthington C. Ford, formerly Chief of the Manu- 
script Division, Library of Congress. The lettered footnotes are 
Van Buren's own; the chapter divisions and numbered notes are 
the editor's. 

The Autobiography is written with engaging frankness, and the 
insight it affords to the mental processes of a master politician is 
deeply interesting. Van Buren's desire to be scrupulously fair in 
his estimates is evident, and, if he did not always succeed, his fail- 
ures are not discreditable. Though the Autobiography does not 
compel the revision of established historical judgments, it yet pre- 
sents authority for much in our political history hitherto somewhat 
conjectural and records political motives and activities of the period 
in an illuminating and suggestive manner. 

In analyzing men and measures, Van Buren all unconsciously 
paints a picture of himself and it is a truthful and worthy portrait. 
It is impossible to read the Autobiography through without greatly 
regretting that it was not carried beyond the point it reaches. 

As a contribution to the political history of the United States, its 
presentation of facts is too valuable to be ignored safely by the 
conscientious investigator. 

J. C. Fitzpatmck, 
Assistant Chief, Manuscript Division* 

Library of Congress. 

8 



FOURTEENTH REPORT OF THE HISTORICAL MANUSCRIPTS 

COMMISSION 



Junk 4, 1919 



JUSTIN H. SMITH, Chairman 

DICE R. ANDERSON GAILLARD HUNT 

Mas. AMOS G. DRAPER CHARLES H. LINCOLN 

LOGAN ESAREY MILO M. QUAIFE 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OP MARTIN VAN BUREN 
Edited by JOHN C. FITZPATBICE 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OP MARTIN VAN BUREN. 



CHAPTEBL 



Villa Falangola, 
Sorrento, June 81, 1854* 

° At the age of seventy one, and in a foreign land, I commence a sketch 
of the principal events of my life. I enter upon this work in the hope 
of being yet able to redeem promises exacted from me by friends on 
whose judgments and sagacity I have been accustomed to rely. I 
need not now speak of the extent to which an earlier compliance 
with their wishes has been prevented by an unaffected diffidence to 
assume that the scenes, of which they desire to perpetuate the mem- 
ory, will be found to possess sufficient interest to justify such a no-, 
tice. That their opinions in regard to that question have not been 
biased by the partiality of their ardent friendship is hardly to be 
supposed, yet it ought not, perhaps, to surprise any that they should 
have thdught that not a few of our contemporaries and successors 
would be interested, and, possibly, the young men of the country 
benefited, by a true and frank account of the rise and progress of 
one, who, without the aid of powerful family connexions, and with 
but few of the adventitious facilities for the acquisition of political 
power had been elevated by his Countrymen to a succession of official 
trusts, not exceeded, perhaps, either in number, in dignity or in re- 
sponsibility by any that have ever been committed to the hands of 
one man — consisting of the respective offices of Surrogate of his 
County, State Senator, Attorney General of the State of New York, 
Regent of the University, Member of a Convention to revise the 
Constitution of the State, Governor of the State, Senator in Con- 
gress for two terms, Secretary of State of the United States, Minis- 
ter to England, Vice President, and President of the United States. 

As it is not improbable that much of the solicitude manifested 
by my friends, in connection with this work, has grown out of 
their feelings and opinions in regard to transactions of 1840 and 
1844, in which my interests were supposed to be deeply involved, 
it may not be amiss that I should say a few words on those sub- 
jects in advance. 
• ' —^ — — i ■ ■ ■ i i .i n . « II.. i i^»— ^ ^— ■ ^ — 

• MB. Book I, IK 1. 



8 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

The Presidential Canvass of 1840, and its attending occurrences, 
are at this moment, without reasonable doubt, subjects of regret 
with ninety-nine hundredths of the sober minded and well in- 
formed people of the United States. No one of that number can 
now hesitate in believing that the scenes thro' which the Country 
passed in that great political whirlwind were discreditable to our 
Institutions and could not fail, if often repeated, to lead to their 
subversion. Indeed nothing could have better served to justify 
and strengthen our reliance upon the sober second-thought of our 
People, than the sense so widely entertained of those transactions 
as soon as the passions that produced them had subsided, and the 
fact that no attempt has been since made to revive them. It is the 
duty of every sincere friend to those Institutions to regard with 
forbearance whatever took place at a period & under circumstances 
to so great a degree unfavorable to the diffusion of truth & to a 
correct appreciation of public measures* 

The defeat of my nomination for re-election in 1844, after it 

had been demanded by Constituencies represented by out of 

(the whole number of Electors of President and Vice Presi- 
dent) was the result of an intrigue that had its origin exclusively 
in the Presidential aspirations of individuals, aided at its inception 
by prejudices, unjust I hope, but such as the long continued exercise 
of political power seldom, if ever, fails to generate, and only 
finally made successful by the co-operation of the slave power, 
subsequently & adroitly brought to the assistance of designs al- 
ready matured. 

Upon both of these topicks I shall of course have more to say 
hereafter. For the present, it is sufficient to declare, as I do with 
entire sincerity that I have never entertained the thought that a 
majority of the People designed to deal unjustly with me on either 
occasion. Errors were doubtless committed on all sides, delusions 
set on foot which there was not time to dissipate and means, de- 
signed for good ends, perverted to bad purposes. But neither of 
these events, important as they were have ever planted in my breast 
a single root of bitterness against the People at large, and it affords 
me equal satisfaction to say that the reconciling influence of Time, 
with the consciousness that I had already enjoyed a larger share 
of popular favor than I could think myself entitled to, have brought 
me to look with complacency, at least, upon the conduct of the in- 
dividual actors in those stirring scenes. 

My feelings towards a People, with whom I have had so many 
and such interesting relations are consequently, now, & I trust will 
continue to be those of gratitude and respect. What I may write 
will not therefore proceed, as is often the case with those whose 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MABTIK VAN BUBEN. 9 

public career has been abruptly closed, from a wounded spirit, seek- 
ing self -vindication, but will, on the contrary be under the control 
of a judgment which satisfies me that I ought to be, as my feelings 
lead me to be, at peace with all the world. I have besides imbibed a 
large share of Mr. Jefferson's repugnance to " provings & f endings 
of personal character. 9 ' So strong has this feeling been that it has 
induced me. over and over again, to wait for the tardy but certain 
effects of time to vindicate me from unjust censure, when I had 
the means at my command for the prompt & effectual refutation. 

After abandoning a direct attempt to go on with this work, 
commenced more than a year ago, I employed some of my leisure 
moments in the collection of materials. These from the irresolu- 
tion under which I laboured did not seem to promise results of 
much value, beyond a temporary relief from the self reproach which 
was caused by past neglect. Hoping to arrive at a better mood on 
the course of my travels, I have brought these with me & to them 
has fortunately been added a complete analysis of the Political 
History of New York by Judge Hammond, made for me by my 
much beloved & lamented son Martin, who had, as I find from his 
papers, with the affectionate forethought that characterized him, 
devoted much of ° his time to similar occupations in anticipation of 
my possible wants & wishes. This supplies me with the chrono- 
logical order of early events, which I have found to be, at this 
distance from my papers, an indispensable requisite. 

With these scanty preparations, but under the stimulus imparted 
by high health, the exhilaration of this beautiful situation and 
salubrious climate in the mountains of Sorrento, and the thought- 
stirring vicinage of Vesuvius, the promontory of Misenum, the 
classic Bay of Baiae, the island of Capri, and the exhumed cities 
of Pompeii and Herculaneum, I have once more determined to 
overcome that disinclination to mental efforts which has thro 9 life 
been n^y besetting infirmity, and to enter with spirit upon the ac- 
complishment of a task, the performance of which I have hitherto 
had too much reason to regard with feelings of despair. 

My family was from Holland, without a single intermarriage 
with one of different extraction from the time of the arrival of the 
first emigrant to that of the marriage of my eldest son, embracing a 
period of over two centuries and including six generations. 1 I spent 
a few weeks in Holland, after the abrupt close of my brief mission 
to England in 1832, and was very kindly received by the King, 

William I. He informed me that a gentleman of my name was at 

i --_ - - - — 

• MS. I, p. ft. 

1 The record of the family of Martin Van Buren has been traced by Frank J. ConkUng, 
who published It In the New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, vol. xxrill, pp. 
121 and 207.— W. C. F. 



10 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

one time Minister of Foreign Affairs under one of his ancestors; 
that the name was derived from the town of Buren, in the neigh- 
bourhood of Utrecht, 1 which was formerly an Earldom, and from 
which by the marriage of one of his forefathers, he derived one of 
•his present titles — that of Count Buren. Of the fact which he sug- 
gested that my family was from the same stock I have neither knowl- 
edge or belief, or, I may add concern, nor do I feel any temptation 
to claim family relationship with a branch of the Van Burens of 
Holland as the family is literally extinct, even though its head had 
the honor of connecting her name with that of Nassau/ 

All I know of my ancestors commences with the first emigrant 
from Holland who came over in 1638, and settled in what is now 
called Eensselaer County in the State of New York. His son, 
[Marten], my great Grandfather, moved to Kinderhook and set- 
tled on lands conveyed to him in 1669, by a Deed in my possession, 
given pursuant to his father's will by Derick Wessels, of Albany, 
a distinguished man in his day, as his father's part of a patent 
granted nominally to Wessels, but for the benefit of his co-pro- 
prietors. 2 He and his son Martin and grand-son Abraham (my 
father) lived and died — the latter at the advanced age of 82— on 
the lands thus acquired. They were all farmers, cultivating the 
soil themselves for a livelihood, holding respectable positions in 
society and sustaining throughout unblemished characters. My 
mother's maiden name was Goes, 8 a name also favorably known in 
Dutch annals, and she was regarded by all who knew her as liber- 
ally endowed with the qualities & virtues that adorn the female 
character. My father was an unassuming amiable man who was 
never known to have an enemy. Utterly devoid of the spirit of 

1 The village of Buren is in the Province of Gelderland. — W. C. F. 

* Finding it in my way on my second visit to Holland in 1854, I paid a visit to the 
ancient town of Buren. I found it a pleasant little place containing a population of 
about seven hundred souls. On inquiry I found that there were yet three of the name 
left & I sent for the eldest. He took me to the place where Castle Buren, as represented 
on the map, had stood, and showed the ground yet bearing traces of a fortified place & of 
its appropriate environs. He pointed out the lands ft houses which had belonged to 
the Earldom, but which had all been sold by the French during their dominion in Hol- 
land, and were now occupied, doubtless to their great improvement, by the owners of 
the soil. The grounds belonging to the Castle were purchased & are now owned by the 
Corporation. The family had become extinct & their bones had been within a year, 
for reasons he assigned, removed from a previous place of interment and reburied within 
a small yard near the spot where the Castle stood, surrounded by an evergreen hedge, 
and shaded by a weeping willow In the centre, to the expense of which, he said, the King 
had contributed liberally. A spot had been reserved for my guide, not he said, as a 
relation, but as the oldest of the name in the town. 

•Cornells Maessen, the first of the line, sailed for America in the vessel Rentsa- 
laerticyck in the summer of 1631, bringing his wife, Catalyntje Martense, and a son. 
Marten. They settled on the Van Renssalaer property at a place called Papsknee, on the 
east side of the Hudson tllver, near Greenbush. A generation appears to have been 
omitted in this account, for the son of Maessen, Marten, did not remove to Kinderhook. 
The son of Marten, Pieter Martense, removed to that place, and his son, Marten, was 
the grandfather of the President.— W. C. F. 

• Maria Goes [Hoes] widow of Johannes Van Alen. — W. C. F. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MABTIN VAN BUBEN. 11 

accumulation, his property, originally moderate, was gradually re- 
duced until he could but illy afford to bestow the necessary means 
upon the education of his children. My advantages, in that re- 
spect, were therefore limited to those afforded by the village academy 
& I was at a very early age (I believe not more than fifteen or 
sixteen), placed in a lawyers office where I remained for several 
years. It has thro' life been to me a source of regret that I had not 
pursued the course so often successfully adopted by our New Eng- 
land young men under like circumstances, — that is to spend a por- 
tion of their time in teaching the lower branches of learning, and, 
with the means thus obtained, to acquire access for themselves to 
the highest 

My mind might have lost a portion of its vivacity, in the plodding 
habits formed by such a course, but it could not have failed to acquire 
in the elements of strength supplied by a good education much 
more than it lost In place of the studies by which I would thus 
have given employment to an uncommonly active mind I adopted 
at a very early age the practice of appearing as Counsel before 
Arbitrators and inferior tribunals and my success was such as 
to give rise to exaggerated impressions that were brought before 
the public in the course of my after political career. Altho' my 
mind was in this way severely and usefully disciplined for the 
examination and discussion of facts, & the practice in that respect 
was eminently useful, yet the tendency of the course of training was 
adverse to deep study, and gave an early direction and character 
to my reading that I was never able to change. Instead of laying 
up stores of useful knowledge, I read for amusement and trusted 
to my facility for acquiring necessary information when occasions 
for its use presented themselves. I was born with a sanguine tem- 
perament, the mental features of which as described by Dr. Mayo 
(the well known English Surgeon and author) "are a disposition 
ardent, hasty and impetuous; the spirits high and buoyant, a ca- 
pacity for intellectual exertions of the strongest kind or highest 
flight, but often capricious and ill sustained," in contradistinction 
from those of the "mixed or equal temperament" which is, he says, 
"well disposed towards great and continually renewed exertions.". 
I feel free to say that I have never been able to overcome the tend- 
encies ascribed to the former. 

How often have I felt the necessity of a regular course of reading 
to enable me to maintain the reputation I had acquired and to sus- 
tain me in my conflicts with able and better educated men, and re- 
solved to enter upon it without further delay ! But ever in a whirl 
of excitement, and absorbed by the cares attached to the new public 
stations to which I was successively elevated I was sure to fall back, 



12 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

after a few spasmodic efforts, to my old habit of reading light 
matters to relieve the mind and to raise it out of the ruts in which 
long thinking on one class of subjects is so apt to sink it, leaving the 
weightier matters of the law, as well as those that appertained to 
public affairs to the period when it became indispensable to grapple 
with them. I am now amazed that with such disadvantages I should 
have been able to pass through such contests as it has been my lot to 
encounter with so few discomfitures. Much adroitness was often 
necessary to avoid appearing in debate until I had been able to 
make myself master of the subject under discussion. That remark- 
able man John Randolph, in one of his morbid moods, wrote a series 
of letters to General Jackson in which he assailed Mr. Calhoun with 
great severity and at the same time laboured to divert the General 
from a purpose he attributed to him — that of making me his suc- 
cessor. These General Jackson, as was his habit in regard to all 
private letters designed to sow tares between us, sent to me for my 
perusal : Among many curious and characteristic observations in re- 
gard to myself he said that in his long experience in public life he 
had scarcely ever met with a single prominent man less informed 
than myself upon great questions when they were first pre- 
sented, or who understood them better when I came to their 
discussion. I remember well the General's hearty laugh when he 
heard me subscribe to the justice of the description. Few can have 
been more entirely indebted for whatever success may at any time 
have crowned intellectual efforts to uncultivated nature than myself, 
yet I do not remember the occasion when I succeeded in satisfying 
my friends that I did not feel that I could have done much better 
if I had possessed better advantages of Education and study. Hence 
my resolutions revived at almost every period of my life to become a 
severe student — resolutions which were frustrated, if not, as the 
Apostle says of sin, by a war in my members, certainly by one in 
my unconquerable mental habits. 

I cannot pass from the subject of my early professional career 
in inferior tribunals without a caution to my young friends, the 
circumstances of whose start in life may resemble my own, against 
the adoption of a similar course. The temptation to anticipate pro- 
fessional fame is a strong one, and my success, humble as it has been, 
is well calculated to mislead young men of genius and ambition. 
Whatever the degree of that success may have been they may be 
assured that it would have been much greater and more substantial 
if like many others, who may not have succeeded as well, I had first 
acquired a sound education and stored my mind with useful knowl- 

° MS. i, p. 10. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN VAN BUREN. 18 

edge. After those invaluable objects are substantially accomplished, 
many advantages may be derived from the practice I pursued ; but 
if those acquisitions do not precede its adoption they will in all 
probability never be made. 

I was admitted to the Bar of the Supreme Court in the Fall of 
1803, and gave my first vote in the ensuing spring in the celebrated 
Gubernatorial election between Aaron Burr, and Morgan Lewis. 
Altho' I had for some time before been entrusted with professional 
business, and, as a zealous politician, represented my county at the 
age of nineteen in a District Convention held at Troy, which nom- 
inated John P. Van Ness for Congress, yet both my professional 
and political career can only be considered as commenced at this 
period. The families which had hitherto taken the lead in the 
politics of my native town were the Van Ness on the Republican, 
and the Van Schaack and the Silvester on the Federal side. They 
had been opposed to each other, as Whigs and Tories in the Revolu- 
tion, and they imbibed the prejudices and resentments engendered by 
Civil War; they had also been arrayed in adverse ranks in all the 
political divisions that had subsequently arisen, but by a remark- 
able combination of circumstances I was, at my first appearance on 
the political stage, placed in direct opposition to those influential 
families and their friends as a united body, and experienced a full 
share in the intolerance that characterized the times. 

Mr. Silvester, 1 in whose office I had been placed as a student. 
was a just and honorable man. Such was also the character of 
his venerable father, and indeed of all the members of his family. 
°HiB Uncles, the Van Schaacks, and their numerous connexions, 
including the widely known and justly respected Peter Van Schaack. 
were persons of much reputation and distinction. But they were 
all ardent politicians, and some of them very violent in their feelings. 
Efforts to divert me from my determined course were not wanting. 
I will refer to but one of them. After the election of 1798 or '9. 
when I was between sixteen and seventeen years of age, Elisha 
Williams, who in the sequel became my principal professional com- 
petitor, arrived in the village, and announced the success of the fed- 
eral candidates, of whom Peter Silvester, the father of my instructor 
and one of the purest men I ever knew, was one. There followed, 
of course, a gathering of the faithful — a firing of cannon and all 
the usual methods of rejoicing over political success, continuing 
until night. It was noticed that I did not participate in these 
expressions, and whilst a collection of choice spirits, (of whom 
an elder half-brother of mine was one) were drinking their wine 
and singing "Hail Columbia!" and other patriotic songs in an 

» Frauds Silverier. ° H8. I, p. 15. 



14 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

upper room, Cornelius Silvester, a brother of my instructor, a 
merchant, and a generous, noble hearted man, having observed the 
state of my feelings, came out and pressed me earnestly to join them. 
Having declined his invitation, which was given with delicacy and 
kindness, I retired to his store, where I slept in the absence of his 
clerk. Some time after midnight I heard a knocking at the door, 
and on opening it, admitted Mr. Silvester himself. At his instance 
I returned to my bed, and he placed himself by its side, and for 
more than an hour occupied himself in presenting the reasons 
which ought to induce me to adopt the politicks of the Federal 
party, and solicited me to do so with a degree of earnestness and 
obvious concern for my welfare which I could not but respect. 

After hearing him out, I replied calmly that I appreciated thor- 
oughly the kindness of his feelings, and was well satisfied of the 
purity of his motives, but that my course had been settled after much 
reflection, and could not be changed. He paused a moment, and then 
took my hand and said he would never trouble me again on the sub- 
ject, and would always remain my friend. As was quite natural my 
insensibility to repeated remonstrances and solicitations and the ac- 
tive part which I thus early took against them in party politics en- 
gendered heart burning with all and occasional tho' slight bickerings 
between Mr. Silvester and myself which rendered my situation dis- 
agreeable, and determined me to seek another place to complete my 
studies. Mr. Van Ness succeeded in his election to Congress, married 
an heiress at Washington, and returned to Kinderhook in high 
feather. His father, altho' a man of wealth had been disappointed 
in his son's first progress in life and, being withal a very severe man, 
had withheld from him all advances not indispensable to his support. 
So poor were both of us, that when I went to Troy to sustain his 
nomination, I had to borrow the amount necessary to defray my ex- 
pences. Being now in very affluent circumstances, and conscious of 
the increasing embarrassment of my situation in Mr. Silvester's of- 
fice, he pressed me to enter one of the prominent law offices in the 
city of New York, and offered to loan me the necessary funds, to be 
repaid when I was able. I accepted the offer, went to New York, 
and entered temporarily, the office of his brother William P. Van 
Ness, intending to look about me before selecting an office of the 
character we contemplated. Mr. W. P. Van Ness treated me kindly, 
and altho' he had but little business, as I found so much the more 
opportunity for study I remained with him to the end of my Clerk- 
ship. It becoming necessary for Mr. Van Ness to advance large sums 
to relieve estates on which his wife owned mortgages from prior in- 
cumbrances he was only able to fulfill his promise to me to the trifling 
extent of Forty dollars, but tendered his pledge to re-imburse any 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN VAN BUBEN. 15 

temporary accommodation I might obtain from other sources; but 
at this juncture my half brother stepped forward and loaned me all 
I wanted. The prompt return of the forty dollars to Mr. Van Ness 
closed our pecuniary relations in advance of the change that soon 
after took place in those of a personal and political character. 

The war between Colonel Burr, and the Clintonians was then 
raging with its greatest severity, and the contest which closed the 
political career of the former took place in the ensuing spring. 
Mr. William P. Van Ness carried me occasionally to visit Colonel 
Burr at Richmond Hill, and I met him sometimes at Mr. Van 
Ness's house. He treated me with much attention, and my sym- 
pathies were excited by his subsequent position. Having entered 
upon the practice of my profession in my native town, under very 
favorable circumstances and already acquired the reputation of an 
active politician, the course I would take in the election became a 
question of considerable local interest The relation in which I 
had stood to the Van Ness family, with my known, personal par- 
tiality for Colonel Burr, created so strong an impression that I 
would support him, that my friends have often in later years been 
called upon to defend me against the charge of having been a Burr- 
ite. In reply to a friendly and very proper letter from William P. 
Van Ness I stated to him the grounds upon which I had decided to 
support the Republican candidate Morgan Lewis. These letters are 
still among my papers. 1 Notwithstanding this, Mr. John P. Van 
Ness came from Washington to attend the election, and re-opened 
the matter to me. I explained to him at our first interview the 
stand I had taken, and the grounds of it. He however continued 
the discussion for several days, until not finding me disposed to yield, 
he stopped abruptly in the street, and said, with emphasis, "I see, 
Sir, that you are determined upon your course." I replied, "Yes, 
Sir ! I told you so at the beginning.' 9 He immediately said " Good 
morning, Sir ! " with a very grave look and tone, turned on his heel, 
and walked off. From that moment our friendship terminated, and 
our social relations even were suspended for nearly twenty years. 
We encountered each other in the newspapers and at the polls, and 
when I offered my vote, the first I ever gave, his father, Peter Van 
Ness, and Peter Van Schaack, who had been, as I have already said, 
at variance since the Revolution, but were now both ardent sup- 
porters of Col. Burr, came forward, arm in arm, accompanied by 
the son of the latter, who, with their approbation, challenged my 
vote. Altho' the inspectors declared themselves satisfied, I was com- 
pelled to take the oath prescribed by law — an indignity which at the 

*WQUam P. Van New to Van Buren, 22 February, 1804, and Van Buren's reply, 13 
March, 1804. 



16 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

next election I retaliated upon young Van Schaack in a way as 
technically lawful as his own, but which stung him and his friends 
too deeply to be soon forgotten. 

Peter Van Ness and Peter Van Schaack whose combined influence 
frowned so harshly upon the commencement of my political career 
were men of no common mark. Judge Van Ness commenced life 
in the humble but respectable trade of a wheelwright, with very 
little education, «and yet by the force of a strong intellect and an 
indomitable spirit, he raised himself to high positions as well in 
the government as in the society in which he lived. As early as 
the French War in 1756, and at the age of nineteen, he commanded 
a company, by their own choice, and served with them in Canada. 
He afterwards commanded a Regiment at the capture of Burgoyne 
in 1777. He was a prominent member, perhaps the most so, of the 
Committee of Public Safety for his County, during the Revolu- 
tionary War, State Senator, Member of the Council of Appoint- 
ment, Member of the Convention for the Adoption of the Consti- 
tution, and First Judge of his County, which office he held at the 
time of his death. He was intolerant in his political opinion and 
arbitrary in his disposition. The traditions of the neighbourhood, 
in which he lived and died, abound with anecdotes of his fiery temper 
and personal courage, and in the epitaph on his tombstone, erected 
at Lindenwald, forty years after his death, and after the place had 
been some time mine, he is described by his eldest son, General John 
P. Van Ness, as " an honest brave man, who feared nothing but his 
God." My opposition to° his views, which he regarded as a species 
of treason in a stripling and a member of a family with whom he 
had been connected at marriage and had been always intimate, pro- 
duced during the canvass unpleasant collisions between us that made 
it difficult to treat him with the respect due to his years and posi- 
tion, and his death occurred too soon after those exciting scenes to 
give his anger time to subside. In that interval I had but one meet- 
ing with him, and that under circumstances that I had reason to 
believe did not aggravate his prejudice. His son William, having 
been the second of Col. Burr in his duel with Gen. Hamilton, which 
took place soon after the election, finding it prudent to leave the 
city of New York after the result was known came to his father's 
house at Kinderhook. 

He informed me by a friendly note, of his desire to go to Albany, 
and to consult with me, before going, in regard to his right to be 
bailed if he should be arrested there, and for that purpose asked me 
to call on him at his father's house. Happy in the opportunity thus 
afforded to shew him that our differences in regard to the election 

• MS. i, » 20. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN VAN BUBEN. 17 

had made none in my friendly feelings towards him I started at 
once for his father's residence without a thought of the existing rela- 
tions between the old gentleman and myself. As I approached the 
porch of the house built and then owned and occupied by Judge Van 
Ness, I perceived that the lower half of the old-fashioned front door 
which was divided through the middle (a style greatly favored by 
our Dutch ancestors) was closed, and the upper open, at which the 
Judge was seated close to and with his back against the lower door, 
for the benefit of the light, reading a newspaper. Hearing my steps 
he looked around and perceiving me, instantly resumed his reading 
in a manner that precluded me from addressing him. The door for 
explanation, as well as that for entrance, being thus closed upon me, 
and not feeling disposed to retreat, I seized the knocker which was 
hanging near his head, and gave it a somewhat emphasized rap, and 
as I did so I saw a smile upon his countenance of which my position 
afforded me a profile view. His son answered the summons imme- 
diately, spoke to his father, (who passed into the drawing room 
without looking behind him) and opened the door for ma He pro- 
posed a walk to the neighboring bank of the creek to prevent inter- 
ruption from visitors. We passed thro' the Hall, and, as we left 
the house by the back door, he apologized to me for having forgot- 
ten the relations between his father and myself, which would have 
made it more proper for him to come to me. I told him he was not 
to blame, for, in the pre-occuption of the moment, I had forgotten 
them myself, but thought the circumstances bid fair to improve our 
intercourse, and then described the old gentleman's irrepressible 
amusement at the free use I had made of the knocker. He laughed 
and said that he had no doubt his father was pleased with the way, 
so much in character with his own decisive temper, in which I had 
extricated myself from the embarrassment in which he had placed 
me. The Judge died in the succeeding month of December, pos- 
sessed of considerable wealth. The estate on which he had long 
resided, and on which he was buried, was originally settled by a 
family who were relations of my father. It was sold at the close 
of the Revolutionary War to pay the debts of the then head of the 
family, and purchased by the Judge. He devised it to his son 
William, in whose hands it went thro' a similar process, and was 
purchased by one of his creditors who sold it to me. In the many 
alterations and improvements I have made in the house I have pre- 
served the old double-door, and its knocker, as interesting memorials 
of my last interview with its orignal owner. 

During my long official residence at Washington, very courteous 
relations were maintained with my old friend Gen. John P, Van 

127488°— vol 2— 20 2 



18 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

Ness, but he by no means liked my political principles. My course 
in regard to the currency and particularly in respect to the Banks 
of the District of Columbia, in one of which he was deeply interested, 
displeased him so much, as to induce him to come to our county in 
1840, to speak and electioneer against my re-election. Having, at an 
early day, obtained my permission to erect a monument over his 
father's grave, he came up for that purpose, not a great while before 
his death, but with an evident resolution that our intercourse should 
be of the most reserved character. Altho' the business he had in 
hand would detain him some days, he declined my invitation to stay 
with me, and, at first, every other advance on my part to facilitate 
his operations. I notwithstanding directed my people to give him 
all the assistance he needed, and on the second day he consented to 
diile with me. He did the same on each succeeding day, and left me 
when his work was finished with feelings as kind as those which 
existed at the commencement of our acquaintance. We visited the 
tomb together on the last day of his stay and he read aloud the 
inscription on the monument, and when he came to the words com- 
memorating his father's bravery, which I have elsewhere quoted, he 
turned to me and said emphatically " You, Sir, know that this is 
true ; " to which I very heartily and sincerely assented. The Gen- 
eral died shortly afterwards. I did not see him again. I have 
thought this brief notice due to a gentleman with whom I was at the 
commencement of my career so closely connected, and who was in 
every sense a remarkable man. 

Peter Van Schaack was a native of Kinderhook. His family was 
among its first settlers, and generally independent in their circum- 
stances. He was a graduate of Columbia College and had every fa- 
cility afforded him for improvement.' Of these he did not fail to 
avail himself and came to be extensively and justly regarded as a 
finished scholar as well as a learned Counsellor. Having studied the 
Common law thoroughly as a science and made himself master of its 
general principles, their application to particular cases was to him 
always a matter of pleasant entertainment rather than of labour. A 
diffidence which he could not overcome prevented him from becoming 
a successful advocate, but his legal opinions were generally respected. 
He was through life, excepting the period of the War of the Revolu- 
tion, the friend and close companion of Jay, Benson, and Sedgwick, 
but those ties were suspended by the course he took in that great 
struggle. They became prominent and efficient Whigs, while his 
principles made him a Tory. The correspondence between Mr. Jay 
and himself, while they stood in that position of antagonism, which 
is published in a very creditable life of Mr. Van Schaack, written by 
his son, does high and enduring honor to both parties. He was ban- 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN VAN BTTREN. 19 

ished, and resided in England until the close of the War. When he 
returned Mr. Jay met him at the wharf and gave him a cordial and 
generous reception. He resumed the practice of his profession and 
in the progress of time became once more united in political principle 
with 43ov . Jay and the other friends I have named in the ranks of 
the federal party. Altho' he occupied an eminent position at the Bar 
and in Society for half a century following he was never elected to 
any public office, nor was he to my knowledge ever a candidate for 
one. He lived in times and in locations which would have been fa- 
vorable to his election, if he had desired it, but his sight became grad- 
ually impaired, ending in total blindness. That circumstance and 
feelings of delicacy connected with his course in the Revolution kept 
him out of the Arena, as a candidate, but did not prevent him from 
being a thorough partisan. 

His prejudices against me in early life were of the rankest kind, 
but being frequently associated as counsel in important professional 
business, in which our feelings were deeply enlisted, we came to 
understand and to like each other better. For -a series of years 
before his death our relations were of a friendly character — politics 
always excepted. In respect to the latter we never made an ap- 
proach toward accord, and but a few years before his death, he 
went, old and blind as he was, to the Polls to vote against me, in 
my canvass for the office of Governor of New York, and in -favor 
of a gentleman whom I knew he did not like, personally, half as 
well as he liked me. 1 My faith in the capacity of the masses of the 
People of our Country to govern themselves, and in their general 
integrity in the exercise of that function, was very decided and 
was more and more strengthened as my intercourse with them ex- 
tended. Of this he had, to use the mildest term, very little. The 
limited extent to which his nature would allow him to entertain it 
was, at an early and critical period, overthrown, and the severe 
penalties inflicted upon his unbelief, doubtless gave to his feelings 
in this regard a character of harshness. Differing so widely at the 
starting point, our views became more divergent at every step we 
took in politics, as well in regard. to men as to measures. On my 
first return from England I visited Kinderhook, and hearing that 
he was lying hopelessly ill, I was on the point of starting to see 
him, when his son came. with an invitation from him that I should 
do so; and I was deeply impressed with the solemnity of the inter- 
view. I found him lying on a temporary bed in his library, where 
he desired to die, and where I had so often seen him in the full 
possession and exercise of hia powerful mental faculties. As soon 

'Van Buren'B opponents were 8mlth Thompson and Solomon Southwick, the latter 
running on the anti-Masonic ticket. — W. C. F. 

• MS. I, p. 25. / 



/ 



20 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATIOF. 

as I entered he had himself raised in his bed, extended his hand to 
me and expressed his satisfaction at seeing me. He said that he 
was going through his last change, and on my expressing a hope 
that such might not prove to be the case, he stopped me, and said 
" No !" he had lived out the full measure of his days, and could not 
be too thankful that his mental faculties had been preserved till his 
last momenta It so happened that I had made myself familiar 
with the place of his residence during his exile in London, and he 
listened with interest to my description of its present condition. 
He spoke kindly and considerately of the relations that had existed 
between us, and I was struck with his evident desire to make the 
civil things his gentlemanly disposition induced him to say con- 
form strictly to the fact, without reviving unpleasant recollections. 
In bidding me farewell forever he said " I am happy, Sir, to think 
that we have always been " — friends he seemed about to add, but, 
pausing a moment, he continued — " that you always came to see me 
when you visited Kinderhook" In a day or two I heard that this 
distinguished man had ceased to live. 



CHAPTER IL 

I remained in the practice of the law twenty five years, and until 
I entered upon the duties of the office of Governor, since which I 
have never appeared in a professional capacity before any judicial 
tribunal, comprising from my admission to the present time a 
period of fifty one years. For my business I was to a marked extent 
indebted to the publick at large, having received but little from the 
Mercantile interest or from Corporations, and none from the great 
landed aristocracies of the country. It was notwithstanding fully 
equal to my desires and far beyond my most sanguine expectations. 
I was not worth a shilling when I commenced my professional career. 
I have never since owed a debt that I could not pay on demand nor 
known what it is to want money, and I retired from the practice 
of my profession with means adequate to my own support, and to 
leave to my children, not large estates, but as much as I think it for 
their advantage to receive. The cases in which I was employed em- 
braced not only the ordinary subjects of litigation between man 
and man in communities like that in which 1 resided but extended 
to the most intricate and important causes that arose during the last 
fifteen or twenty years of my practice. In the management of these 
I was repeatedly associated with and opposed to such men as Richard 
Harrison, Aaron Burr, Thomas Addis Emmett, Daniel Webster, 
John Wells, John V. Henry, Peter Van Schaack, Abraham Van 
Vechten, David B. Ogden, Samuel A. Talcott and Elisha Williams — 
a galaxy of great lawyers scarcely equalled in the professional ranks 
of any country. 

Elisha Williams, altho' ten years my senior was my professional 
antagonist thro' the whole of my professional career. We were for 
a long succession of years employed in almost every cause that was 
tried at the Bar of Columbia County, where we both resided, and 
almost always on opposite sides. We were at the same time promi- 
nent leaders in our respective political parties, and both warm par- 
tisans. To the danger of imbibing personal prejudice from these 
prolific sources was added that which threatened the discharge of 
adverse duties in cases embittered by the strong personal antipathies 
of the parties to the litigation ; and yet, with a constant indulgence 
in what is called loose, and means liberal practice, we never had, to 
my recollection, a motion before the Court for relief against techni- 
cal or formal advantages taken on either side. I invariably en- 
countered him with more apprehension at the Circuits than any of 

21 



22 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

the great men I have named, and I am sure I speak but the opinion 
of his professional contemporaries when I say that he was the great- 
est nisi-priw lawyer of the New York Bar. It seemed scarcely pos- 
sible to excel his skill in the examination of witnesses or his ad- 
dresses to the Jury, but with these his ambition seemed satisfied; for 
arguments at the Term he was seldom well prepared and far less 
successful On closing our last professional concern after my re- 
tirement he expressed to me by letter his great satisfaction that in 
a practice so peculiarly exciting as ours had been we had never any 
cause for personal complaint in our professional proceedings and 
tendered me assurances of his respect and esteem, feelings ^jhich 
were very cordially reciprocated on my part. 

The briefest sketch of the incidents of such a professional career 
as mine has been would yet be too long for insertion here, assuming 
that they would be of sufficient interest so long after their occurence, 
to justify it. They must therefore, with one or two exceptions, be 
left to the judicial reports, and to the traditions of the times. The 
exceptions, as will be seen, have more than professional relations. 

My employment as Counsel to contest the title of the Livingston 
family to the Manor which bears their name, has been a fruitful 
scource of misrepresentation of both my professional and political 
conduct, and I will therefore be excused for placing that matter 
upon its true ground. Did the subject possess no other interest than 
my own vindication from unmerited aspersions I would, on the prin- 
ciple by which I am governed in the preparation of this Memoir, 
pass it by. But a brief and true statement of a matter which has, at 
intervals for nearly a century produced bitter litigation and violence, 
making repeated appeals to military aid necessary to the preserva- 
tion of the public order, and in regard to which the acts of dis- 
tinguished individuals have been brought in question, cannot be with- 
out interest. 

Robert Livingston, in the year 1684, obtained a Patent from 
the Crown for a strip of Land on the Eastern shore of the 
North (or Hudson) River, stretching from the Northern to the 
Southern Boundary of the Manor, as it is now held, and extending 
into the woods so far as to contain Eighteen Hundred acres, with 
a reference to monuments at each end of the strip, which are now 
the North and South bounds of the Patent. A short time after- 
wards he obtained another Patent for what was then and has ever 
since been known as Tackkanic (Taghkanie?) Flats lying East of the 
first Tract, and supposed to contain eight hundred Morghens of 
land. Both grants contained definite bounds and distinct quantities. 
In 1686 he obtained a Patent of Confirmation, which recites the two 
previous Patents, and states that the tracts described in them lie 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MABTIK VAN BUKEN. 23 

adjacent to each other. This Patent contains apt words granting 
and confirming to him and to his heirs the said Tracts of land, 
therein represented to have been previously granted and now de- 
scribed by exterior bounds, referring to natural objects, which bounds 
included the present Manor. In point of fact the lands embraced 
in the two first Patents lay from eighteen to twenty miles apart 
from each other, and the intermediate lands constitute the principal 
part of the present Manor, amounting to some acres, 

whilst the tracts contained in the original Patents amount to be- 
tween three and four thousand. That this representation was the 
act of the applicant for the Patent and that it was grossly untrue 
are undeniable facts. They have never been controverted because 
they could not be denied, and there is not the slightest doubt that if 
the Government at °Home had become apprised of the glaring 
falsity upon which the Patent of Confirmation was granted, and 
had, within a proper time, instituted proceedings to vacate it, the 
Patent would have been declared void. Why it was not done, and 
why this indirect course was originally pursued by Mr. Livingston, 
and why he did not afterwards apply for and obtain an original 
Patent not referring to and wholly independent of those which were 
tainted with the fraud, are questions which will probably never be 
solved. The regulations in force in regard to the quantify for 
which grants to individuals were authorized when the first Patents 
were granted, the footing on which he stood with the Government 
at the different periods when they were issued, and a natural re- 
pugnance to an acknowledgment of the original Error may each 
have had their influence in controlling his course, and there may 
have been inducements of which we have no knowledge or suspicion. 
But instead of adopting the course I have referred to, Mr. Liv- 
ingston made it the business of his life, as it has been that of his 
heirs, to uphold the tainted title by a succession of acts on the part 
of the Crown, by its Colonial Government, and on the part of the 
State Authority after the Revolution, to strengthen the Patent of 
Confirmation, and his claim under it. 

The fact of the misrepresentation and the fraud involved in it 
was open to the tenants, and the ground readily taken that no after 
acts, bottomed on that original fraud could render the title valid. 
This state of things gave rise to periodical agitations and repeated 
outbreakings among the tenants from about the year 1740 to the 
present time; one or more arose before I was born, one whilst I 
was a student at law, one whilst I was at the Bar, and one after 
1 left it. When I was retained by the Committee who represented 
the Tenants, I gave the main opinion in writing in which I held, 

* MS. I, p. 80. 



24 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

First, that the Patent of 1686 (the first which covered the Manor) 
was void on account of the fraudulent misrepresentation it con- 
tained and on which it was founded, and was not made valid by 
the subsequent Patents which recited it, and were, in that respect, 
avowedly designed as Patents of Confirmation only ; and Secondly, 
That the effect of the possession of the claimants under it and of 
the statutes of limitation in barring the rights of the State was 
a question of greater difficulty, in regard to which I must not be 
understood as encouraging them with a prospect of a favorable 
result. A suit to try titles was brought by Thomas Addis Emmett 
as Attorney General on behalf of the State, but before it could 
be brought to trial, he was displaced from office by a political 
change, and succeeded by Abraham Van Vechten. The Committee 
not believing that they could be properly prepared at the first 
Circuit for which the cause was noticed for trial, in which opinion 
their counsel, including Mr. Emmett, (whom they had retained 
after his removal) concurred, and assuming that their wishes for 
a postponement until the next Circuit would, under the circum- 
stances, be respected, took no preparatory steps. These views and 
wishes were communicated to Mr. Van Vechten, on his arrival at 
Hudson, who declined to comply with them, and decided to pro- 
ceed in the trial. The Committee protested against this decision, 
and refused to take any part in the investigation. The trial, vir- 
tually an ex-parte proceeding, resulted in a verdict for the defend- 
ants. No farther steps were taken whilst I was at the Bar, but the 
matter was, as is well known, subsequently revived and bitterly 
contested. 

Whilst tiie proceedings first referred to were going on, I was 
called upon by Gen. Jacob B. Van Rensselaer, accompanied by Mr. 
Williams, and informed that a report was in circulation on the 
Manor, that he had said on the floor of the House of Assembly, in 
a debate on a petition of the tenants, "that the tenants were not 
fit to govern themselves, and deserved to have a Master" — that 
this report was doing him great injury in the matter of his re- 
election, and that, as I could not believe that he had said so, he 
wished me to authorize the Newspaper to contradict the report in 
my name as the most effectual way of putting it down. I asked 
him whether he had any suspicion that the report had been in any 
degree countenanced by me. He replied, — " not the slightest " — that 
he had fully satisfied himself upon that point. I then told him 
that he had done me but justice in that regard, that I had never 
heard of the report before, and had no hesitation in saying to him 
and to Mr. Williams that I believed him to be a man of too much 
good sense to make such a remark, and this I thought would be 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY Otf MABTIN VAN BTTEEN. 25 

the general opinion. But I added that their press had been for a 
long time and was at that very moment teeming with the most 
outrageous calumnies against me on the same general subject charg- 
ing me with things which he could not but be satisfied were false, 
but that I heard of no attempts on his part or that of his friends to 
check their course; that I would point out the libels to which I 
alluded, shew him their falsity, if that were necessary, and that the 
moment I found him interfering in my behalf, as he wished me to 
do for him, I would with pleasure comply with his wishes; — until 
then I must decline to do so. He refused to connect other matters 
with his request and was as persistent in making it as I was in de- 
clining it. He then gave me notice that he would call a meet- 
ing of, the People of the Manor towns, on a day and at a place 
he named, at which meeting he would charge me with writing a 
letter during the preceding winter (as he had been credibly in- 
formed was the case), to a member of the Legislature — Mr. Whal- 
lon advising him to stave off action on the Tenant's petition until 
after the Spring elections, with a view to securing the favourable 
effect on those elections of the pendency of the matter. I assured 
him that his information was entirely false, and offered to give 
him a letter, authorizing Mr. Whallon to furnish him with copies 
of any letters I had written to him, or to obtain copies for him 
myself. He declined the offer and called his meeting. I sent a 
messenger to the place with a letter, addressed to the Chairman 
of the meeting narrating what had taken place between the Gen- 
eral and myself — giving the fullest contradiction to the revelation 
he proposed to make, and requesting to have my letter read to the 
meeting. The Chairman put my communication in his pocket, and 
allowed Gen. Van Rensselaer to make his statement — without say- 
ing one word to the meeeting about its receipt or contents. 

When informed of this I published a card in the Newspapers and 
in Hand bills, denouncing in the strongest terms the falsity of the 
General's accusations, and called a meeting at the same place for 
the purpose of making the same denial in person. I gave the Gen- 
eral notice of the time, place, and object of the meeting with an invi- 
tation to attend. When my friend Mr. Morell, and myself arrived 
at the place of meeting we found a very large assemblage of people, 
and among them General Van Rensselaer, Mr. Williams and several 
members of the Livingston family and their Agents. As soon as the 
meeting was organized I rose and stated my object in calling it — 
submitted to it certified copies of the only letters I had written to 
Mr. Whallon— denied the charge upon which the General had ar- 
raigned me before them and called upon him to maintain it if he 
could. He stood in a remote part of the room, but did not then 
speak or shew any disposition to do so. After a pause I rose again, 



/ 



26 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

and, repeating what bad transpired, claimed that his continued 
silence must under the circumstances be regarded by the meeting as 
a confession that his charge was untrue. He then came forward, 
greatly agitated, and made an earnest appeal to the meeting, which 
he concluded by pledging himself that if I would commence a suit 
against him, he would, as the words were not actionable, deposit in 
Court five hundred dollars, as stipulated damages, to be forfeited if 
he did not prove the charge. I promised to comply with the sug- 
gestion, and contented myself with asking the meeting to remember 
my prediction that the Deposit would never be made. After the 
close of the Election I called upon him to redeem his promise, when 
he replied that he had, at the time, limited the period within which 
the call was to be made, and as that had expired he now declined to 
make the Deposit; a declaration which the whole assembly before 
whom his pledge had been given knew to be unfounded. The pub- 
lication of our correspondence closed the affair between the General 
and myself. I also brought a libel suit against the Editor 1 of the 
federal newspaper for a still broader ° and libelous impeachment of 
my conduct and motives in the Manor controversy. This I ceased 
to prosecute on the application of Mr. Williams made by a letter in 
which he disclaimed for the Editor a design to accuse me of any- 
thing beyond or inconsistent with my professional rights and duties, 
claiming only that my opinions were wrong and led to injurious 
results. 

I make these explanations in view of the extent to which these 
questions between Landlord and Tenant have in later times been 
made the subject of political agitation — leading to such debauchery 
of the publick mind as to enable it to hear without apparent shock, 
of the extension of Executive pardon to persons convicted of the 
darkest crimes growing out of such agitations, under circumstances 
justifying deep suspicion of being designed to operate upon their 
suffrages and the suffrages of their friends. The time has I hope 
never been when my mind would not have revolted at the mere con- 
templation of such dealings with such subjects, and I am quite 
unwilling to have any acts of mine confounded with those we have 
witnessed in more recent times. 

I am induced to speak of another matter connected with my pro- 
fessional life because it relates to the only personal dispute I ever 
had which led to the extremity to which it was pursued. At the 
Columbia Circuit in the year 181 [?] we brought to a final and 
favorable decision, so far as related to the Courts of law, the long 
existing controversy in regard to the effect of a Patent, in which 

many of the Dutch families (and mine among them) w re inter* 

-■ ■ ■ 

1 Francis Stebbins, editor of the Northern Whig, published In Hudson. — W. C. F. 
* MS. I, p. 85. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN VAN BUREN. 27 

ested, and which Mr. Van Schaack had had under his professional 
care and management since the year 1772. Being very much dis- 
satisfied with the testimony of a surveyor, who had formerly been 
on our side but was now against us, I thought it but fair, as I was 
entitled to the closing speech, to give him notice of the attack I in- 
tended to make upon his credibility and the grounds of it, to afford 
the opposing Counsel an opportunity of sustaining him. Among 
the latter was John Suyjlam, a young gentleman from another 
county and then rapidly rising in professional fame, and also high 
in the confidence and esteem of the federal party. When I came to 
that part of the case he interrupted me and used offensive expres- 
sions, to which I replied hastily and still more offensively. No 
farther notice was taken of the matter on that or the next day, but on 
the third a dinner was given by General Van Rensselaer, at 
Claverack, to a large party of distinguished gentlemen of the federal 
party, including Mr. Suydam and also General Harry Livingston, a 
valorous old gentleman, who owed me much ill will and acknowledged 
the debt with no more reserve than that with which he strove to pay 
it I am far from saying or even believing that the affair between 
Mr. Suydam and myself was made the subject of particular action 
at that dinner; but it gave Mr. Suydam a better opportunity than 
he had yet had to see to what extent I was an eye-sore to the Mag- 
nates of the County, and exposed him to the temptation of raising 
himself in their estimation by becoming the instrument of my 
humiliation. On the succeeding morning I was called from my seat 
in Court by Thomas P. Grosvenor (who had been one of the guests 
at the entertainment referred to) and by him presented with a chal- 
lenge from Mr. Suydam. Mr* Grosvenor was the brother-in-law 
of Mr. Williams and a man of decided talent and distinction in pub- 
lick life: he became afterwards a prominent member of Congress, 
had a personal affair with Mr. Calhoun, and died at Baltimore. He 
expressed his desire to accommodate the matter in which I believe 
he was sincere, as, altho' a man of extreme violence in politics, he was 
not wanting in generous impulses, and proceeded to state how he 
thought the affair might be arranged without discredit on either side. 
T thanked him for his good disposition, but had no difficulty in 
showing him that the reciprocal declarations he suggested would 
be directly inconsistent with what I had said of Mr. Suydam, and 
concluded by telling him that I had no course but to accept the invi- 
tation, and would give him a formal answer, through my friend Mr. 
Morell, after the adjournment of the Court No one entertains a 
more contemptuous opinion of the bravery of the Duel field than 
myself, or holds the practice in less respect, but I deemed it indis- 
pensable to the maintenance of my position to follow the bad ex- 
amples which publick opinion had sanctioned if not required. I 




28 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

therefore delivered my acceptance to Mr. Morell on my returning 
from Court. He reported to me the next morning that Mr. Grosve- 
nor irritated by the incessant remonstrances of his friends against 
his agency in the affair, had refused to have any intercourse with 
him upon the subject, and had tendered to him any responsibility 
that he chose to demand ; that he had then called on Mr. Suydam 
and offered him my reply which he refused to receive unless it came 
thro 9 Mr. Grosvenor. I requested him to see Mr. Suydam imme- 
diately and to propose to him, in my name, that we should agree 
to dispense with the farther action of both of our friends and appoint 
others as the only way in which the difficulty that had arisen could 
be obviated. He executed the commission and returned with a verbal 
answer from Mr. Suydam that he could not, under the circumstances, 
consent to dispense with Mr. Grosvenor's services. I went imme- 
diately to his hotel and posted him, and the affair finally evaporated 
in newspaper publications and recognizances to keep the peace. 1 For 
some years there was no intercourse between us, tho' a disposition 
to restore friendly relations was quite apparent on his part, and at 
length meeting at dinner, while attending Court in a neighbouring 
county, and sitting opposite to each other, he asked me to pass the 
wine which stood before me, and I met the overture with an invita- 
tion to take a glass with me which he accepted " with pleasure ", and 
we walked arm-in-arm to the Court house to our mutual gratifica- 
tion and the astonishment of our friends. He soon after joined our 
side in politicks, was elected to the [State] Senate as a Democrat, 
became my zealous friend and supporter and remained so till he 
died, sincerely lamented by all who knew him, and by none more 
than myself, as a man of noble impulses, honorable character and 
decided talent. 

Earnestly engaged in a successful and lucrative practice, I had 
no desire to be a candidate for an elective office, nor did I become one 
until the Spring of 1812, when I was forced into that position by 
circumstances with which I could not deal differently. But from 
my boyhood I had been a zealous partisan, supporting with all my 
power the administrations of Jefferson and Madison — including the 
Embargo and other restrictive measures, — had acted with the great 
body of the Republican party in supporting the election of Morgan 
Lewis against Aaron Burr for Governor, and subsequently that of 
Daniel D. Tompkins against Governor Lewis 2 for the same office, 
sustained the prorogation of the Legislature by Governor Tomp- 
kins on the ground of the use of corrupt means to obtain the charter 
of the bank of America, and had exerted myself, as far as I could, 

*Two notes of this affair are In the Van Buren Papers, November 25, 1811, and 
February 17, 1812. — W. C. F. 
• In 1807.— W. C. F. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MABTIN VAN BUBEX. 29 

to arrest the bank mania of the times by which the State was dis- 
honored and its best interests impaired. It is a curious coincidence 
in my pnblick career that notwithstanding my devotion to politicks, 
my first nomination for an elective office as well as that for the last 
I held, should both have been brought about by the unfriendly acts 
of those who chose to regard themselves as rivals without being, at 
the moment, anticipated by myself. There were several highly 
respectable citizens who aspired to the nomination to fill the va- 
cancy in the office of State Senator which occurred in my District 
in 1812, but I was not of the number. I was .unwilling to permit 
the possession of such an office or any other cause to interfere with 
the prosecution of my profession, to which I was warmly attached, 
and the circumstance that there had not then been so young a man 
as myself elected to the Senate prevented me from even thinking 
of it. William P. Van Ness, in whose office I had studied law, was 
one of the aspirants. He had succeeded to the title and possession 
of his father's place at Kinderhook and Mr. John C. Hogeboom and 
myself had prevailed upon Governor Tompkins to relieve him, by 
pardon, from the disfranchisement to which he had become liable 
as a second of Colonel Burr in the duel with General Hamilton. 
He had solicited my support but received for answer that I consid- 
ered Mr. ° Hogeboom best entitled to the place. To this he assented 
and assured me that he should do nothing to prevent his selection. 
Not long afterwards and while Mr. Hogeboom and myself were 
spending a few days at Albany, we accidentally discovered that Mr. 
Van Ness (who had accompanied us to the city) was at that mo- 
ment prosecuting a complicated intrigue to defeat our wishes in the 
matter — whatever they might be. Indignant at the information we 
had received, and mortified that in a matter in regard to which, as 
it proved, neither of us had any personal desires, we should have 
been thus treated, we immediately started for home determined to 
defeat the machinations that had been set on foot with so much 
secrecy and had already been in part executed. On our way from 
Albany Mr. Hogeboom, for the first time, informed me that the 
state of his private business would not admit of his being a can- 
didate, — that he had consulted with our friends at Albany, — that 
they all thought it important that I should be in the Senate, and 
that Mr. De Witt Clinton was particularly desirous that I should 
be sent. I objected to the proposition for reasons already referred 
to, with sincerity and earnestness. He entreated me not to come 
to a final conclusion until he could have a full opportunity to place 
the subject in all its bearings before me, and prevailed upon me 
to stop at his house for the night that we might talk the matter 

^ m i ■ i - i_ — ■ ' ■ ■■ m ■ ■ m ■ 

•MS. I, p. 40, 



30 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

over more fully. In the course of the evening he informed me more 
particularly of the views taken of the matter by Mr. Clinton, and 
remonstrated earnestly against a refusal to comply with the wishes 
of my friends. I agreed to give him a final answer in the morning 
when, satisfied that there was but one ground on which I could 
with propriety decline, I informed him that altho' I had not heard 
so I thought it very probable that Mr. Robert Jenkins, a highly 
respected citizen of Hudson, might, if the nomination was to come 
from that city, desire to have it; that if he did so desire, as I had but 
recently become a resident of Hudson I could not think of entering 
into competition with him; that I should on reaching home com- 
municate to Mr. Jenkins' friends without reserve all that had passed 
between us, and that if they did not desire the nomination for Mr. 
Jenkins I would not oppose the wises of my friends, but if they did 
I must insist on being excused. To this he consented and we parted. 
On my arrival I found that there also the city delegates had already 
been chosen and that I had been placed at their head, with three other 
gentlemen, the particular friends of Mr. R. Jenkins, of whom his 
brother, Mr. Seth Jenkins, was one. I immediately asked an in- 
terview with those gentlemen at my own house, in which I stated 
to them all that had passed between Mr. Hogeboom and myself — 
my own disinclination to be a candidate — and my determination to 
refuse the nomination if they desired to bring Mr. Jenkins forward, 
and I begged them to inform me frankly of their wishes. From their 
conversation I inferred that I was mistaken in supposing they en- 
tertained the views I had anticipated, and that they concurred in 
the opinion of Mr. Hogeboom that I could not refuse to run. Find- 
ing myself thus committed as I supposed to a contest with Mr. Van 
Ness only for the nomination, I thought it important in view of 
the transaction at Kinderhook to have the attention of the Party 
immediately directed to the subject by a call of the Convention. 

Some days after the publication of the Call, Judge Wager, a po- 
litical friend from the country called at my office and said, " I learn 
that you intend to have the Senator taken from Hudson " — to which 
I replied, in a tone which under such circumstances gentlemen who 
suppose themselves referred to usually employ. He responded that I 
need not speak so modestly as it was not to me but to Robert Jenkins 
that he referred. I told him that he was mistaken upon that point, 
as Mr. Jenkins did not wish the nomination, on hearing which he 
informed me, to my amazement, that my co-delegate Seth Jenkins 
had within the hour applied to him to support his brother, and 
had, in reply to a suggestion from him about me, referred to my 
youth and recent settlement in the city as reasons why I ought 
not to be selected. Satisfied from the character of my informant 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN VAN BUREN. 31 

that there could be no mistake on his part I immediately addressed 
notes to the three gentlemen of the Committee inviting them to 
meet me in the evening. They came to my house at the time sup- 
pointed and I repeated to them what had passed at our previous 
interview, as I have stated it here, and then asked whether my 
statement was correct. Mr. Setfa Jenkins (who was the spokes- 
man throughout) answered affirmatively, but added that they had 
not at any time expressed themselves to the effect I had inferred, 
altho' he freely admitted that my inference from what had been 
said was, under the circumstances, as right and fair as if they had ex- 
pressed themselves to that effect in terms. I then mentioned his con- 
versation on that day with Judge Wager, my account of which he 
admitted to be correct I then asked him with much feeling on 
what possible ground he could justify himself in treating me in 
so ungenerous a manner. He replied promptly that he would not 
attempt to deny that their course had in appearance been both dis- 
ingenuous and unkind, but he affirmed solemly that it had not 
proceeded from unfriendly motives, but that they had been con- 
trolled by circumstances which he might some day explain to me. 
and placed in a situation that put it out of their power to act 
otherwise and that they would have no reason to complain of 
any course I thought proper to take. I replied that they had 
left me x no other choice than to obtain the nomination if in my 
power, which I should assuredly do, and we parted. The remain- 
ing members of the Committee were both honorable and upright 
men, incapable of an unworthy design. Mr. Jenkins had many 
of the good qualities of his race, but had besides an innate passion 
for political intrigue, and as I have almost always found to be 
the case with men subject to that infirmity, was neither skillful 
in his schemes or successful in their execution. His subsequent ex- 
planation was that he had entered into an arrangement with Mr. 
Van Ness that they would combine their strength against me, as- 
suming that I would be a candidate, and leave it to the convention 
to decide between his brother and Van Ness, and that he had been 
obliged to promise the latter that he would hold no communication 
with me upon the subject until they met again. But why such 
an understanding precluded him from saying what would cer- 
tainly exclude me from the canvass he could never explain without 
conceding that they were certain of their game, and that they had 
a farther object, viz; to break down my influence in the county, 
which he was not willing to admit 

The contest excited great interest, and the Convention was the 
most imposing in numbers and character that had ever been held in 
the county. The republican portion of the Livingston family sup- 



32 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

ported Edward [P.] Livingston, and combined their opposition to 
me with the supporters of Jenkins and Van Ness, each willing that 
the convention should nominate either of them so that I should be 
excluded. I was chosen by a majority over all of them on the first 
ballot. The election was severely contested. The federalists sup- 
ported Mr. Livingston, who had also a spurious republican nomina- 
tion. Against me were arrayed the entire federal party, the Lewis- 
ites, the Burrites, and the supporters of the Bank of America, who 
had obtained its charter at a previous session of the Legislature, but 
designed to procure from the next a reduction of the bonus they had 
been obliged to promise to the State — a project they were well satis- 
fied would be opposed by me. Our Senatorial district then embraced 
a quarter of the State. Mr. Livingston and myself were the only 
candidates in the field, and I was successful by a majority of less 
than two hundred, the whole number of votes given being about 
Forty thousand. Altho' this was the actual result, much delay and 
many unfavorable reports and contradictions preceded the final an- 
nunciation of my political birth and baptism. 

The annual election under the old Constitution took place in the 
last week of April, and the Supreme Court of the State commenced 
its spring session at the city of New York in the first week of May. 
Thither flocked all the leading lawyers of the State, who were, in those 
days more even than now, also its prominent politicians, fringing 
with them the results of the elections in their several counties; we 
had then neither railroads, nor electric telegraphs, and the first week 
or two of the Term was generally spent in anxious expectation and 
digestion of election reports. My district was mainly composed 
of River Counties, lying on both sides of the North River, and there- 
fore among the first to be heard from; still, when I left Hudson to 
attend the Term, it was generally conceded that I had been defeated. 
Whilst I was arranging my luggage and my papers, my opponents, 
headed by the leading men of my county, were celebrating their 
supposed victory at the Hotel on the opposite side of the street, 
and when I left my door the most jubilant among them appeared 
on the piazza and shed upon me, at parting, the light of their beam- 
ing countenances. On the steamboat I met the well known Ebenezer 
Foot, an able lawyer and remarkable man of the day, always before 
that time a Democrat, but then seduced from my side thro' the in- 
fluence of the Bank, who professed to sympathize with me in my 
defeat. While passing Catskill I perceived the tall figure of my 
brother-in-law, Judge Cantine, 1 towering above the crowd, and point- 
ing his finger at a small boat that was making towards us. When it 

Q MB. I, p. 45. l Mooes J. Cwitlne.— W, C. F, 



AUTOBIOGBAPHY Of MARTIN VAN BUBBN. 38 

reached us a letter was brought to me containing a canvass of the 
old republican county of Delaware which shewed that my majority 
in that county had been understated, and was in fact sufficient to 
render my election certain. I handed the letter to my sympathizing 
friend Counsellor Foot, whose countenance, notoriously not hand- 
some, supplied an amusing commentary upon his recent condolences. 
When the steamer arrived at New York, early on Sunday morning, 
Judge William W. Van Ness of the Supreme Court, a very distin- 
guished man, of whom I will have to speak hereafter, and Barent 
Gardinier, a famous federal member of Congress during the War of 
1812, were standing arm in arm, on the wharf, and recognizing 
Thomas J. Oakley on the boat, they hailed him, and demanded to 
know the result of the election for Senator in the Middle District- 
His characteristic reply was that " Van Buren was on board, and 
they should ask him." The Judge only said " Come Gardinier, let 
us go," and they walked off without farther question, but meeting 
afterwards with a citizen of Rockland County, who gave him a can- 
vass of its election different from the one theretofore conceded to 
be correct, he came to my lodgings, and asked me what would be 
the result if Rockland had given the vote he named, to which I re- 
plied that in that case Mr. Livingston was certainly elected. He 
gave me the name of his informant and kindly assured me that the 
information might be relied on. Having received the official Can* 
vass from the county of Rockland, the next morning, I reciprocated 
Judge Van Ness' polite attention, by enclosing it in a note which 
was delivered to him, whilst seated on the Bench, by that great man, 
in his way, High Constable Hays, and this ended all question on 
the subject. 

From this period to the expiration of my Presidential Term I 
occupied, without the intermission of a year, responsible official po- 
sitions either in the state or federal governments, two thirds of the 
time in the latter,— positions which made it my duty to take active 
part in the discussion and settlement of almost every public ques- 
tion, in conjunction with or in opposition to many of the distin- 
guished public men of the day. 

It is of those questions, and of the measures produced by them, — 
of the parts taken in regard to them by myself and by my con- 
temporaries, with my views of their characters and dispositions, that 
I propose to speak. I design to state as well how those subjects 
presented themselves to me at the time, as how far my first impres- 
sions have been changed or modified by subsequent experience or re- 
flection. 

I would shew myself unfit for the performance of this task if I 
were not deeply sensible of the obstacles to its satisfactory exeou- 

127488°— vol 2— 20 8 



34 AJCEBICAK HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

tion. To check the indulgence in egotism, to which human nature 
is so prone, especially when it has the temptation and the excuse 
of an auto-biography, so far as to make what is said endurable; to 
pronounce justly and impartially on matters in which we have been 
ourselves implicated and to speak with equal truth and candour of 
contemporaries, whether they have been bound to us by political 
agreement and personal ties, or separated from us by the lines and 
perhaps by the asperities of party — are difficult things. My best 
efforts will however not be wanting to accomplish these objects, and 
my confidence in my ability to do so is founded on qualifications 
of the heart rather than of the mind. My political opponents, at 
every stage of my public life, have with great unanimity, and with 
no more than justice, conceded to me a rare exemption from that 
personal ill will which party differences are apt to engender, nor is 
my breast now the abiding place of those morbid feelings and ad- 
hesive prejudices so often cherished by public men who have been 
thwarted in their career. I feel that I have made efforts in sup- 
port of right principles which have failed, at times, either of being 
rightly understood or justly appreciated : a thing that has happened 
to every man who has aspired to an influence in the State. Yet it 
would be unjust in me not to admit, as I have elsewhere and always 
done, that my share of public honors has been greater than I could 
think myself entitled to by public services. The excess must be 
credited to the generosity of political friends, seldom very accu- 
rately proportioned to the merits of their favorites. 

My confidence in the integrity of public opinion is at this moment 
as strong as it ever was, and my heart assures me that there lives not 
now and has not lived in our country a public man to whom I am 
not disposed to do justice. I may be mistaken as to facts and con- 
clusions and I may overrate my ability to be impartial, but no 
ingenuous mind shall read what I write without acknowledging the 
purity of my intentions. I claim to be tolerably well acquainted 
with the workings of the human heart, and if I am not satisfied at 
the conclusion that the fruits of my present labours will bear this 
test, I will destroy them. 

Accounts of personal transactions with delineations of individual 
peculiarities of mind and manners constitute the usual staple of 
works of this description. It might seem on first view that in regard 
to political Memoirs it would afford more interest to explain the 
nature of the great questions that occupied the public mind, and to 
re-examine the discussions that grew out of them, during the period 
embraced by the writer. But such an impression must I think lose 
its force when it is considered that at the time when such memoirs 
are usually prepared those questions have generally been finally 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN YAK BUREN. 35 

settled in public opinion, have lost their importance or have been 
exhausted of their interest by re-iterated argumentation. The apathy 
and indifference which in such cases succeed to great interest, almost 
in proportion to its previous intensity, must be familiar to all observ- 
ing minds. But whilst our concern in public questions is thus, in 
the nature of things, doomed to die away, it is very different in 
regard to the conduct and motives of distinguished individuals who 
took part in them. These seem never to lose their fascination, and 
hence our curiosity is seldom wearied by recitals of events of even 
little importance, before unknown, in the lives of men who acquired 
notoriety in their day. Hence also a great part of our interest in 
accounts of stirring scenes which we know to be fictitious. The most 
attractive as well as the proper study of mankind is man — not only 
to gratify our curiosity but by instructing us in the nature and dis- 
positions of our fellow men, to increase our ability to perform well 
and successfully our own parts in the great drama of life. 



CHAPTER III. 

My Senatorial term commenced at a most critical period both of 
the State and Nation. War had been declared against Great Britain 
shortly after my election, and New York, as a frontier State, was 
destined to bear the brunt of the contest. Her extended frontier, as 
well by land as by sea, and the defenceless condition of both, cast 
a heavy responsibility on her Legislature. The Presidential elec- 
tion was close at hand, and the State had, with great unanimity 
put one of her most distinguished citizens in nomination for that 
high office. In addition to these grave matters, the Bank mania was 
at its highest point, and the State violently excited by the employ- 
ment of the most profligate means for its gratification. 

Neither the first nor the last of these subjects could cause me the 
slightest embarrassment. I had, as a citizen, given my ardent sup- 
port to the preventive measures recommended by Jefferson and Madi- 
son, and regarded the declaration of war as a step indispensable to 
the maintenance of our National honor. No consideration, personal 
or political, could therefore withhold me from giving my aid to its 
vigorous prosecution. I was always opposed to the multiplication 
of banks, and throughout my eight years' service in the State Senate, 
voted against every application for a bank charter, save one at Buf- 
falo, the object of which was to aid in repairing the losses sustained 
by the destruction of that town by the enemy, and justified as being 
in some sense a war measure. 

Still more hostile to the bank corruptions so prevalent at the time, 
and against which I had successfully struggled in my election, 
nothing could be more congenial to my feelings and opinions than a 
cordial co-operation with all efforts to arrest the increase of banks, 
and to expose the guilty authors of those corruptions to the execra- 
tion of the People. 

My course in respect to the Presidential Question was, on the 
other hand, beset with serious difficulties. Mr. Madison had been 
nominated for re-election by a majority of the members of Congress 
— (then the usual method of making such nominations) and he was 
admitted by the Republicans, of every sort, to be an honest man and 
an accomplished Statesman. The Republican members of the New 
York Legislature had, however, before I became a member of that 
body, as I have already said, with great unanimity, presented Mr. 
Clinton as the opposing candidate, and had asked and obtained his 

36 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY 07 MARTIN VAST BUREH. 87 

assent to the proceeding. The impending danger of War,° and a 
supposed superior capacity on the part of Mr. Clinton to meet such 
a Crisis were among the reasons assigned for his nomination. To 
New Yorkers it was urged that the Legislature having placed him 
in his then position, and no change having taken place save the 
actual declaration of War, the anticipation of which was one of the 
main reasons for his nomination, they owed it to their own and his 
honor to give him the vote of the State. I took my seat .in the Senate 
for the first time at the Extra-session of the Legislature, held for 
the choice of Presidential Electors, and it was claimed that I stood 
in a position to which these considerations applied. I yielded to 
their influence, but did so with undisguised reluctance, and with a 
determination, understood by all, that nothing should prevent me 
from giving my votes and influence in favor of a vigorous prosecu- 
tion of the War. Judge Hammond, in his Political History of New 
York, places my motives upon the true ground. 1 That I acted in 
strict conformity to the wishes of my immediate constituents there 
was no doubt, and it is equally true that I conscientiously believed 
that I was acting in the line of my duty. But now, when the excite- 
ments of the day have passed away, and personal predilections have 
lost their influence upon the question, I am free to say that we all 
committed a great error. The rejection by the People of the Presi- 
dent who had recommended the War, in the absence of any act to 
show his incompetency, would have done more injury to the public 
service than could have been counter-balanced by the alleged supe- 
rior qualifications of Mr. Clinton for the crisis. This consideration 
should have induced Governor Clinton to decline the State nomina- 
tion, after the declaration of War, notwithstanding the ground upon 
which he had been put forward, and to unite with his friends in the 
support of Mr. Madison. His failure to do so was fatal to his na- 
tional aspirations, and many of his friends destroyed their political 
influence by adding disparagements of the War to their opposition 
to the candidate by whom its declaration had been recommended. 
But I reasoned differently then, or I might perhaps say more cor- 
rectly, felt differently, for my personal attachment to Mr. Clinton was 
strong and probably too much influenced my judgment. My course 
however, although wrong, was thus far entitled to the merit of dis- 
interestedness of motive, that I embarked in his support without a 
hope of success. Having heard of some remarks of mine indicative 
of this state of mind, addressed to a mutual and ardent friend at 
that very session, he called on me and said : " I hear that you de- 
spair of the election.' 9 I admitted that I had made the observation 

* MB. I, p. 60. l Volume I, 821.— W. C. F. 



38 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

to which he alluded, and proceeded to explain my views upon the 
subject, which were in substance, that after what had taken place in 
the spring, we had no other course to pursue than to give the vote of 
the State to him, but that I fully believed it would be unavailing. 
He then shewed me a calculation very favorable to his election, made 
by a noted politician, that did not change my opinion though it had 
evidently produced a strong impression on him. 

Mr. Clinton had not on account of particular circumstances 
expected my support. These I will briefly state as they afford an 
illustration of the danger of acting upon inferences be they ever so 
plausible and the propriety of prompt explanations between political 
friends. 

Whilst Judge Ambrose Spencer and myself were sitting together, 
one evening, in the porch of Judge Richardson's house, in Auburn, 
Cayuga County, (at which place the former was holding a Circuit 
Court which I was attending as Counsel) 2 our letters were brought 
to us containing news of the death of Attorney General Hildreth. 1 
The Judge after a moments reflection, turned to me and said — u You 
ought to be Hildreth 's successor " — and at once tendered me his sup- 
port I thanked him cordially, but expressed an apprehension that 
there were older members of the profession among our political 
friends who would think themselves slighted by the appointment of 
so young a man. He controverted the supposition with his usual 
earnestness, and I promised to think of the matter. The Judge and 
myself were at the time upon very good terms, but in the then 
scarcely perceptible but still existing division in our party, between 
himself and the friends of Clinton I ranked among the latter, and 
I did not like to take a step in the matter suggested by Judge 
Spencer without consulting Mr. Clinton. On my return home I 
wrote to Mr. Richard Riker, then a confidential friend of Mr. Clin- 
ton, informing him of what had passed between the Judge and 
myself, and requesting him to converse with Mr. Clinton and to let 
me know his opinion upon the subject. I also asked him to say to 
Mr. Clinton that if he thought I was too young or if he desired the 
appointment of some other friend he should have no embarrassment 
about saying so, and might rest assured that I would be perfectly 
satisfied. Mr. Riker informed me at once that Mr. Clinton was 
anxiously desirous of my appointment, and asked me to make no 
objections to having my name placed before the Council of Appoint- 
ment. An Extra-meeting of that body was called to fill the vacancy 
in the summer of 1812, and a friend, [Richard Riker] with my con- 
sent, called on and broached the subject to Alderman Gilbert, a 
leading member of the Council, and a particular friend of Mr. Clin- 

i Matthias B. Hildreth, of Johnstown. — W. C. F. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MABTIK VAN BUREN. 39 

ton. 1 My friend found him reserved and indisposed to converse 
farther on the subject than courtesy required. Inferring from the 
report of this conversation that Mr. Clinton had changed his views, 
I requested my friend to return at once and inform Mr. Gilbert that 
I wished my name to be considered as withdrawn. 

When I saw the appointment of Thomas Addis Emmet an- 
nounced I was confirmed in the correctness of my inference, and 
from that moment to the meeting of the Legislature for the choice 
of Electors I received no explanation either from Mr, Clinton or 
Mr. Biker. Knowing the friendly relations existing between Mr. 
Clinton and Mr. Emmet, and sensible of the partiality for him on 
the part of our Irish citizens, I would at the latest moment have 
consented to the appointment of Mr. Emmet if Mr. Clinton had 
informed me of his wishes, but I felt injured by his silence. 

After the Electors were chosen, in a manner and with a result 
very gratifying to him, Mr. Clinton asked me to spend the evening 
with him. Other visitors were denied admission, and whilst we 
were at tea he introduced the subject of the appointment to the 
office of Attorney General, and said he feared that I had thought 
hardly of him in regard to it. I explained my feelings to him as 
I have done above, and he then assured me in a very solemn man- 
ner that he had no agency, direct or indirect, in causing the ap- 
pointment of Mr. Emmet. He admitted that from Mr. Gilbert's 
conduct and from the fact that the Council were all his particular 
friends, I had a right to draw the inferences I had drawn, but 
that they were nevertheless entirely unfounded. Although bound 
to believe from this explanation that Mr. Clinton had not himself 
taken any part in the matter, I could not yet dismiss from my mind 
the impression that the affair had been so managed by some of 
his friends as to produce the result without connecting him with it 
This subject will again be noticed by me. 

A brief relation of the interior history of a contest which ex- 
cited great attention and effort at the time, and has never been 
forgotten in the States may even now, not be without interest. The 
friends of Mr. Clinton, in whom I confided and with whom I con- 
sulted, decided at the beginning to avoid throughout any inter- 
course or arrangement with the federalists in regard to their 
course. If we could get the vote of the state for him, without 
entering into or sanctioning a concerted coalition with them he 

1 The members of the Council of Appointment were William W. Gilbert, of the southern ; 
Johannes Bruyn, of the middle ; Henry Yates, Jnn, of the eastern ; and Francis A. Blood- 
good, of the western districts. " This council was decidedly Clintonian ; but the party 
decrees having been carried into effect by the preceding council, little remained to be 
done by this. Such appointments, however as were made, were made in accordance with 
the wishes and views of Mr. Clinton. Hammond History of Political Parties in the 
8tat» of New York, I, 804.— W. C F. 



40 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

should have it. If not, the matter should be allowed to shape its 
own course. All we desired therefore was to place a ticket of 
Electors before the joint Convention of the two houses of the Legis- 
lature, in whole or in part (according to the action of the Madi- 
sonians) favorable to Mr. Clinton, and to leave it to the option of 
the Federalists, without explanation or solicitation, either to vote 
for it, or to elect their own, if they could, by the aid of the Madi- 
sonians, or to make themselves a Madisonian ticket and elect that 
by combining their votes with those of the friends of Mr. Madison. 
One of these courses they would be obliged to pursue. We had a 
majority in the Senate over both Federalists and Madisonians, and 
of course the power of forming as we pleased one of the tickets to 
be submitted to the joint convention. The Federalists had a simi- 
lar preponderance in the lower house, with, of course, like power. 

The question between us and the Madisonians in regard to the 
composition of the Republican Ticket could only be settled in Cau- 
cus, where we had a decided majority over them. The venerable 
Judge Taylor, always before and soon after again a Clintonian, 
though now warmly opposed to him, was, on my motion, made 
Chairman of the Caucus. We offered at once to give them a portion 
of the ticket equal to their proportion of representatives in the 
Legislature compared with ours, and to elect the Ticket by our 
joint vote. This offer was peremptorily and perseveringly refused, 
and no proposition made in lieu of it that had even a shew of 
fairness to support it After a very protracted discussion, and 
when it had become evident that no equitable compromise could 
be effected, I moved that an entire Clintonian ticket should be 
nominated. The Chairman called me to him and asked under 
great excitement whether I intended to persist in that motion. I 
replied "Certainly! unless the Madisonians will accept of a rea- 
sonable portion of the ticket." Upon this the Veteran put his 
large brimmed hat that was lying by his side, on his head, rose from 
the chair without another word to the meeting, called out "Lew! 
Boy ! " to his servant, and in a few moments the jingling of his 
sleigh bells notified us that he was on his way home. Judge Hum- 
phreys, of Onandaga, was, after a brief pause, called to the chair, 
and my motion was adopted by a decided majority — after which 
matters proceeded quietly to their consummation. Two tickets 
only were before the joint meeting of the two houses, to wit, the 
Clintonian from the Senate, and the Federal from the House of 
Assembly; the Madisonian being driven to a choice between them. 
Many of them voted blank ballots, and some thirty six out of sixty 

• MS. I f p. 55. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN VAN BUREN. 41 

one (the whole number of their members) voted for our ticket and 
elected it 1 

Whatever objection may have existed against our support of 
Mr. Clinton, none can, I think, be made against the manner in which 
our determined course was carried out. We acted upon a principle 
that we believed to be sound, avowed it openly and sustained it 
firmly. So free were we from intriguing with the Federalists, that 
no charge or insinuation to that effect has ever been made even 
against me, whose whole life has been since so closely canvassed 
for matters of accusation by an untiring throng of opponents. 

The session having been called for the purpose of appointing 
Electors only, no other business was done. Altho' the youngest 
man, and one of the youngest members of the body, I was placed 
at the head of the Committee to report the answer of the Senate 
to the Governor's Speech, which having been adopted and presented, 
the Legislature adjourned to the 1st day of January 1813. 

There were occurrences prior in date, but connected with these 
transactions, which from their relation to distinguished individ- 
uals and the light they shed upon the private history of the times, 
are not without interest. A short time before the Extra session, 
William King, of Maine, an enterprising and not over-scrupulous 
politician, visited Albany to prevail upon the friends of Mr. Clinton, 
to withdraw his name from the Canvass. He very naturally ad- 
dressed himself to Judge Ambrose Spencer, the brother-in-law of Mr. 
Clinton, and to Judge Taylor, an ancient friend and adherent of his 
family. These gentlemen addressed a letter to Mr. Biker, advising a 
compliance with the suggestion of Mr. King. The advice was good 
but badly received by Mr. Clinton who regarded King as an emissary 
of the Administration at Washington, sent to tamper with his 
friends, and became indignant at this evidence of his success. It is 
quite certain that Mr. Madison knew nothing of the affair, and the 
mission, most probably, had its origin in Mr. King's passion for in- 
trigue, stimulated by the hope of increasing his influence with the 
Administration. 

The "American Citizen " a newspaper then edited by William 
Lucius Rose, and previously by the more famous James Cheetham, 
after the letter to Hiker, commenced a series of pungent and well 
written attacks upon Judge Spencer, entitled the " Ambrosiad." In 
these the Judge's early life on his father's farm at Ancram, was, 
with other matters, lampooned in Mr. Clinton's happiest style. I 
happened to be at the time attending a Term of the Supreme Court 

t B«e Hammond, History of Political Parties in the State of New York, I, 821. — 
w. c. jr. 



42 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

at New York, and lodged at the same house* with the Judge and 
General John Armstrong, then Secretary of War under Madison, 
who had been Judge Spencer's early and constant friend, and was 
supposed to have been instrumental in inducing him to secede from 
the Federal ranks. The General had been quite as constant in his 
enmity to Mr. Clinton, and was the conceded author of a pamphlet 
attacking his private character, in which he referred to the u rubric 
of his countenance " as " indicating the Deity he adored ! " and to his 
friends as the "Brotherhood of hope" — ; a pamphlet that shewed 
by its talent and bitterness that the pen that had indited the " New- 
burgh letters " at the close of the Revolutionary War, had lost none 
of its pungency or venom. His disposition was eminently pugna- 
cious, and he did not attempt to conceal either his satisfaction at 
the rupture between the distinguished brothers-in-law, or his indis- 
position to appease the quarrel. 

The fourth number of the "Ambrosiad" was announced for the 
next day. Seeing the extent to which the Judge was annoyed by 
these provoking Articles, and regretting, in common with most of 
our political friends, the schism that had arisen between two of our 
strongest men, I visited Mr. Clinton in the evening in the hope of 
being able to prevent its appearance. He received me kindly, but 
was at first very reserved in his conversation. I found no diffi- 
culty in attributing this unusual circumstance to an apprehension 
that he had offended me in the affair of the Attorney Generalship, 
and a consequent belief that I was no longer his friend — an impres- 
sion doubtless greatly strengthened by the fact of my intimacy with 
Spencer and Armstrong. I introduced the subject of the Presi- 
dential election first ; assigned the reasons by which I was influenced, 
as I have done here, expressed my regret that the Republican mem- 
bers had placed him in the position he occupied, but closed with an 
avowal of my determination to sustain him in the contest, and to vote 
for Electors favourable to him. He was evidently both disappointed 
and gratified by my communication, listened readily to what I had 
to say upon the subject that occasioned my visit and spoke of it with- 
out reserve, save only that he professed entire ignorance of the Au- 
thor of the "Ambrosiad." This I was satisfied he did not expect 
me to believe. He assured me that I was mistaken as to Judge 
Spencer's regret at the separation, — that he had with his eye open 
and to subserve his own personal ends gone into the support of Mr. 
Madison, and had it not in his power to return. I did not concur 
in that opinion, but urged strongly the inutility of these attacks upon 
either supposition, and earnestly invoked his interference for their 

* A popular boarding house kept by Mrs. Keese, on the north corner of Broadway and 
Wall Street*. 



AtTTOBIOOfcAPHY 03? MARtfltt VAN BtJREN. 43 

suppression. At this stage of our conversation his friend Preserved 
Fish, entered, remained a short time, and left us under the impres- 
sion that we desired to be alone; Mr. Clinton followed him out of 
the room, and remained out some minutes. On his return I rose 
to depart when he referred again to the subject, repeating much of 
what he had said in regard to the state of Judge Spencer's mind, but 
expressed a hope that Mr. Rose might be induced to suspend the 
publication of the "Ambrosiad " at least long enough to satisfy me 
that there was no use in forbearance. He said this in a way that 
convinced me that he had commissioned Mr. Fish to procure such 
a suspension. On the following morning there was of course much 
curiosity to see the "Citizen," and Mr. Boss 1 of Newburgh, a State 
Senator, and a friend to both Clinton and Spencer went to the 
Barber's shop— that immemorial news market — for that purpose. 
We were all assembled at breakfast when he returned ° and he was 
immediately interrogated as to the contents of the "Citizen." He 
replied that the promised number was not in it, or alluded to. Arm- 
strong promptly demanded " What is in it? " and on being told that 
the paper contained Biker's answer to Judges Spencer and Tay- 
lor, which was very severe, exclaimed "Ah ! only a change of dish ! 
Good policy that! Tomorrow we shall have the "Ambrosiad" 
again!" Upon this Judge Spencer said with emphasis and con- 
siderable formality that it was quite immaterial whether the abusive 
article did or did not appear, as Mr. Clinton had already gone too 
far to make his future course of any consequence in regard to their 
personal relations. It never occurred to me to speak to Mr. Clinton 
upon the subject during the short period of our subsequent intimacy 
hut I never doubted that some one of the company at the table, which 
was numerous, informed him of Judge Spencer's observation. The 
suspended number appeared a few days afterwards and was fol- 
lowed by articles from the same pen, published at Albany as well 
as New York, in which the Judge's feelings were cruelly lacerated. 
These were in turn resented by him in verbal denunciations of un- 
equaled harshness. In this way a 'furious warfare between them 
was kept up for about three years disgraceful to their personal re- 
lations and in the highest degree discreditable to political contro- 
versy. 

Mr. Madison was elected to the Presidency by a large majority ; a 
result well calculated to call into vigorous action the energies of the 
country and to show to the enemy that the War was national. The 
dispositions of nearly all the Republican members of the Legisla- 
ture were in favor of aiding the Federal Government in support of 
the War by all the means in their power. The course of the federal 

1 William Ross. ° MS. I, p. 60. 



44 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

majority in the House of Assembly was, on the other hand, one of 
uncompromising, and, it is not too much to say, of reckless opposition. 
All hopes of peace had disappeared, and the National Government 
was in want of means. State co-operation was the readiest aid that 
presented itself, and a resolution was offered in the Senate, propos- 
ing a loan by the State to the National Treasury of half a million of 
Dollars, which I supported. After a violent debate, in which Morgan 
Lewis and Erastus Boot took active and honorable parts, it passed 
the Senate by a party vote, but was rejected by a similar division 
in the lower House. The same course was pursued by the latter body 
in respect to every measure of the Senate designed for the support 
of the War. These differences led to repeated public conferences 
between the two Houses, in which their respective views were pre- 
sented by Committees, chosen by the majorities in each, in the pres- 
ence of multitudes of the People. I was on every occasion a member 
of the Committee on the part of the Senate; and although these de- 
bates in no instance produced the change of a vote in either House, 
they exerted a very salutary influence upon the public mind. The 
feelings of the members, as also of the audience, frequently became 
highly excited. On one occasion Judge Hager, 1 an honest German 
and Republican Senator from Schoharie, stepped forward, at the 
close of my speech, and carried away by his feelings, embraced and 
kissed me, and thanked me in the presence of the two Houses. A 
Committee of the Republicans of Albany called on me, by appoint- 
ment the same evening for a copy of my speech for publication, 
which I could not give them as I had spoken from a few hasty 
notes and had not time to write it out. 

The Bank of America, which had obtained its charter at the 
previous session, now applied for a reduction of the bonus it had 
stipulated to pay to the State. This had purposely been made larger 
than they could afford to pay to screen the members who voted 
for the Charter, from the resentments of their constituents. The 
subject produced a violent debate, and the failure of the project 
in the Senate was, for a time, probable. Whilst I was speaking on 
a motion I had made for its rejection, the Chairman, Mr. Parris, 1 
fell back on his seat from an attack of vertigo, and the Senate was 
forced to adjourn. On the following morning the Senate received 
information of the death of Chancellor Livingston, with an invita- 
tion to attend his funeral. This caused an adjournment for two 
days, during which time the lobby succeeded in securing votes 
enough to make the passage of the bill certain. 8 

1 Henry Hager. — W. C. F. 
■ Daniel Parris.— W. C. F. 

"See Hammond, History of Political Parties in the State of New York, I, 806. — 
W. C F. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN VAST BUBBN. 45 

The election of United States Senator, which caused a final 
political separation between Mr. Clinton and myself was made at 
this session. I was alarmed by the confidence shewn by the Federal- 
ists in the election of Rufus King, notwithstanding the Republican 
majority in the Legislature, and was induced to suspect an intrigue 
between them and a portion of Mr. Clinton's friends to secure the 
votes of the latter for Mr. King. These gentlemen had voted for 
the Bank of America, and, to divert public attention from their de- 
linquency in that regard, were, on all occasions, the loudest in their 
devotion to Mr. Clinton. Finding them reserved in conversation 
on the Senatorial question, I called on Mr. Clinton, apprised him 
of my suspicions and remonstrated earnestly against what I feared 
would be their course. I urged that the election of Mr. King by 
their votes would expose his (Mr. C's) friends to the suspicion of 
having intrigued with the Federalists, and having promised them 
the SenHtorship as a consideration for their votes in his favor for 
the Presidency, and insisted that we had a right to ask his active 
interference to protect us against such a result. He concurred with 
me entirely as to the great impropriety of such a step on the part 
of any of his friends, assured me in so earnest a manner that my 
suspicions were unfounded, and promised his attention to the sub- 
ject so readily, that I returned to my room not only satisfied of 
my error, but under no small degree of self reproach. To increase 
the certainty of our getting the votes of all his friends, I made my- 
self instrumental in securing the nomination of James W. Wilkin 
as our Candidate, an old friend of Mr. Clinton and the Chairman 
of the Legislative Convention by which he had been nominated for 
the Presidency. At the viva-voce nomination in each House every 
Republican member then acting with the party named Mr. Wilkin, 
and he received a majority of the entire Legislature. The House 
having a majority of Federalists nominated Mr. King and the 
Senate Mr. Wilkin. When the balloting commenced in joint- meet- 
ing, Buggies Hubbard a Senator, and always an enthusiastic friend 
of Mr. Clinton, asked me to write his ballot and to accompany him 
to the Chair to see him deposit it in the box. Supposing him to be 
influenced by the suspicions entertained by myself, I assured him 
that they were groundless, and that all would be right. He shook 
his head, and said " I ask you but a small* favor and I hope you 
will not refuse to grant it" 

Moved by the earnestness of his manner I wrote his ballot and 
saw him put it in the box. When the ballots were counted it ap- 
peared that Gen. Wilkin was defeated. There was immediately a 
report put in circulation that the few Lewisites in the Legislature 
(who put in blank ballots) had voted for King. Knowing the in- 



46 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

timacy that had existed between Mr. Hubbard and the men I origi- 
nally suspected I was morally certain that they had acted as I 
feared they would act. When we returned to the Senate chamber, 
Mr. Clinton approached me and said " I hope you no longer enter- 
tain the suspicion you spoke of." My reply was " No ! " at which 
he expressed his satisfaction. I then said gravely, "Mr. Clinton, 
you must not misunderstand me. My suspicions have become con- 
victions. I know that the men I pointed out to you have done this 
deed." He replied, under evident excitement, that he believed I did 
them great injustice; and at that moment the Secretary apprised 
him that they were waiting for him to organize the Senate. He took 
the chair, made his Report, and adjourned the body. 1 

Nothing further passed between us until the day the evening of 
which had been appointed for holding the Republican caucus for 
the nomination of candidates for the offices of Governor and Lieu- 
tenant Governor, when at a brief interview, held at my request, I 
referred to the business of the evening. He asked what I supposed 
would be done. I told him an attempt would be made to nominate 
Judge Taylor in his place as Lieut. Governor. In reply to his en- 
quiry as to my opinion of the result of such an attempt, I told him 
that it was my intention, if he did not object, to propose his name 
for a re-nomination, but that I thought there was reason to fear, 
from the prevalent feeling in the party, that it would be rejected, 
upon which he asked quickly whether I would submit to the nomina- 
tion of Taylor. I answered, as promptly, "Certainly! if it is 
fairly made." After a moment's pause he bowed respectfully, left 
me, and resumed the Chair. From that day we never met as polit- 
ical friends, altho' our personal relations afterwards became familiar 
and kind and continued so till his death. In the caucus there was a 
great deal of feeling exhibited; an apparent determination on the 
part of the majority to vote against his nomination, but, so far as 
I could see, a general disposition to bring the question to that result 
without giving unnecessary offense. For some time no one seemed 
inclined to move in the matter. At length a motion was made for 
the joint nomination of Tompkins and Taylor, the first for Gov- 
ernor and the last for Lieut-Governor. As the motion was not ac- 
companied by any remarks I was obliged to introduce the subject 
myself, which I did in a speech of considerable length which was 
listened to with interest and received with kindness. I referred to 
the dissatisfaction that prevailed in our ranks in consequence of the 
recent appointment of Senator, admitted that from all I knew on 
the subject I felt obliged to concur in that sentiment; that I had 
notwithstanding brought my own mind to the conclusion that it 

* 8ee Life and Correspondence of Rufus King, V, 291. — W. C. F. ° MS. I, p. 65. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MABTIK VAN BUREN. 47 

would be expedient in view of the condition of the country and of 
the honorable position that Mr. Clinton had long occupied in the 
party to tender him a renomination; that I would do this under 
a full conviction that Mr. Clinton would not accept the nomination 
unless he was sincerely desirous to act with us in the future; that 
our party was powerful and had always been magnanimous; that 
I would be gratified if a majority of the meeting should concur with 
me in these sentiments, but that if I was so unfortunate as to fail 
in this, I would support cheerfully and heartily the candidate of 
their choice. I then moved to substitute the name of Mr. Clinton 
for that of Judge Taylor. I was followed by the gallant Gen. 
Leavenworth, of the Assembly, who, tho' a law-partner and warm 
friend of Gen. Boot, who was at that time a leader of the opposi- 
tion to Clinton, supported my motion in a very impressive speech. 
He appreciated and applauded the grounds on which I had proposed 
the re-nomination, and sustained them with a zeal and earnestness 
that obtained for him credit and a kind reception from all present. 
My recollection is very distinct of the favorable impression made 
upon me by the absence of anything like violent attack upon Mr. 
Clinton. Upon the ballot Mr. Clinton received sixteen votes, and 
Taylor thirty two. Tompkins and Taylor were then nominated, and 
a Committee having been appointed to prepare an Address to the 
People, I was made Chairman and wrote the Address. 1 It contained 
a full review of the matters in controversy between Great Britain 
and ourselves, and was extensively published at the time and after- 
wards and very well received by the public Judge Spencer in the 
warmth and I should add in the excess of his admiration called it 
a second Declaration of Independence. 

The Federalists nominated Stephen Van Bensselaer for Governor 
and James Huntington for Lieut. Governor. A number of Mr. 
Clinton's prominent friends, including such names as those of Gen- 
erals German and Van Courtlandt came out with an address in 
which they severely censured the administration of Mr. Madison, 
and protested against the support of Tompkins. My course on the 
occasion caused a final political separation between my early friend 
John C. Hogeboom and myself. He was a clear headed and strong 
minded man, and always an ardent friend of Mr. Clinton, who cor- 
dially reciprocated his regard. He had taken an early interest in 
my success, and I fortunately had it in my power to make him ample 
returns for his friendly offices before his death. We had a warm 
correspondence upon the subject of supporting Tompkins which 
ended in a settled difference of opinion. When he saw that I was 

designated to write the Address, he came to Albany to dissuade me 

* ^ ^ ^^^— ■ ' — ^— » ■ — ^ — i^— ~— i n ■!■ i » 

l The autograph draft of thia Address is In the Van Buren Papers in the Library of 
Congress under data of 1818, March. 



48 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

from doing so. He insisted that the prominent part I was taking 
in favor of Tompkins was inconsistent with the friendly relations 
that had so long existed between Mr. Clinton, himself and myself, 
and that a proper respect for those relations demanded that my posi- 
tion, if not that of a Neutral, should at least be one of great reserve. 
I assured him that neither Mr. Clinton nor himself could feel more 
strongly than myself in regard to those relations but that I could 
not allow them to control my action in the way he proposed ; that 
the support of Tompkins was the support of the War — in which 
cause I was engaged with all my heart and all my mind, and to which 
all my energies should be applied regardless of personal conse- 
quences. Seeing that he could not divert me from the course I had 
determined to pursue, he left me under great excitement and forth- 
with commenced a warfare embracing affairs of business as well as 
politics, that lasted for several years. Family connexion— my 
brother having married his daughter — and his advancing years ulti- 
mately brought him to a better state of feeling, which I eagerly 
reciprocated and our personal relations continued thence forward 
friendly during his life. 

I was well aware of the inconsistency of my offer to support Mr. 
Clinton for re-election to the office of Lieut. Governor with the con- 
clusive opinions I then entertained of his course in relation to the 
appointment of Senator, and with the bad treatment I believed 
myself to have received from him individually. But lingering at- 
tachments and the dread of being supposed capable of abandoning 
an old friend, and a great man in the then depressed state of his 
political fortunes had, I am free to confess, more influence upon 
my course than political justice or perhaps, to some extent at least, 
than a proper self respect. This disinclination to abandon a politi- 
cal friend in adversity has been with me a prevailing sentiment, and 
has been strengthened instead of weakened by the prevalence of a 
contrary disposition on the part of many from whom I had ex- 
pected better things. I cannot bring my mind to the conclusion that 
Mr. Clinton himself entered into, or directly sanctioned such an 
understanding with the Federalists as that I have referred to, but I 
had at the time no doubt that, in the state of mind to which the 
loss of the Presidential election had brought him, aggravated by the 
apparent hopelessness of his ever regaining the confidence of the Re- 
publican Party, he suffered, by not attempting to prevent it, a suffi- 
cient number of his friends to deceive the party with which they 
professed to act, and to turn the election in favor of Mr. King. Judge 
Hammond 1 thinks that the Clintonian votes for Mr. King were 
promised to the Federalists by Thomas and South wick, the agents of 

' Political History of New York. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN VAN BUREN. 49 

the Bank of America, to promote the passage of its charter. It is 
very possible that the Federalists, altho' they would have supported 
that bill in any event, imposed this tribute upon the agents. Thomas 
was a man of great address, and very unscrupulous. He may have 
managed the whole affair without letting Mr. Clinton know any- 
thing about it. The supposition is not in harmony with cotempo- 
raneous and following events — but may notwithstanding be true. In- 
structed by a subsequent disclosure (applicable also to Mr. Clinton) 
how easy it is to be mistaken in similar matters, I pass from the 
subject without expressing or even entertaining a decided opinion 
in regard to it. 1 

The election of 1813 fortunately continued in his place the patri- 
otic Tompkins but the federalists again succeeded in obtaining a 
majority in the House of Assembly. We were therefore doomed to 
struggle thro' another session without the ability to render any essen- 
tial aid to the public cause. The indecorous violence of their answer 
to the Governor's speech (then the authentic exponent of party 
feelings) and of their speeches in support of it, exceeded those of the 
last session. They perseveringly refused to concur in any measure 
designed to support the war, and the session wore away in unavailing 
efforts on our part to strengthen the national arm, and in public 
conferences, in which the People took an increased interest, and 
which, tho' still fruitless in the Legislature, had a happy effect in 
preparing the public mind for the election of 1814. The spirit that 
actuated our opponents in the Assembly governed also the action of 
the same party in Congress, and in mo6t if not all the State Legis- 
latures, but most violently in the Eastern States. There matters 
were apparently in rapid progress which would tender to the Fed- 
eral Government the alternative of a discreditable peace or a separa- 
tion of the Union. It is believed that the subsequent peace alone, 
the news of which met the agents pf the Hartford Convention on 
their way to Washington, saved that section from the full develop- 
ment of a treasonable design. 

This humiliating state of things was discouraging to the sup- 
porters of the War, but they did not despair. To remove as far as 
possible the general gloom, a meeting was called of the members of the 
Legislature, the Republicans of Albany, and those from the country 
who might then be at the seat of Government. It convened at the 
Capitol on the evening of April 14th 1814, and was well attended, 
altho' I can never forget the painful anxiety and apparent despond- 

1 Clinton, however, did conduct an Intrigue with the Federalists in New York and in 
other States. The atory la told in the memorandum printed in Life and Correspond- 
ence of Eofna King, V, 204 and subsequent pages. Some additional facts are given in 
Hammond, History of Political Parties in the State of New York, I, 315.— W. C. F. 

• MS. I, p. 70. 

127488°— vol 2—20 4 



50 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

cncy visible on the countenances of those who composed it. I en- 
deavoured to revive their spirits and rekindle their confidence in a 
speech of considerable length. Whilst speaking I was struck with 
the excited countenance of a stranger to me, wearing a fur cap and 
not distant from me in the crowd. When I closed, he took off his 
cap and without moving from his position, made a speech which by 
the remarkable sweetness of his voice, the grace and ease of his elo- 
cution, and the sanguine and inspiriting character of his remarks 
produced a thrilling effect upon the meeting. I soon ascertained 
that this was Peter E. Livingston, the son-in-law of Chancellor Liv- 
ingston, who had that evening arrived in Albany as the Chancellor's 
agent to oppose Governor Ogden's petition to the Legislature. 
I thanked him heartily for his opportune and effective speech, and 
have not suffered the favorable impression he made upon me that 
night to be effaced by his subsequent unfriendly dispositions. As 
soon as he closed I offered a series of Resolutions, which were passed 
by acclamation, and the meeting broke up in excellent spirits. 

I give a few brief extracts from the Resolutions to shew the 
temper of the time, and the plainness of speech by which it was 
characterized : 

At this interesting period of onr National Affairs, when our government is 
combating with a wily, vindictive, and sanguinary foe ; when domestic disaffec- 
tion and foreign partialities present their callous fronts at every comer and 
when the present hopes and future prospects of the people of New York are 
to be tested by the exercise of the elective franchise, — at a period of such 
anxiety and solicitude this meeting composed of citizens from almost every 
section of the State take the liberty of publicly expressing their sentiments on 
the subject. 

That " every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle " — that on 
the various operations of government with which the public welfare are 
connected an honest difference of opinion may exist — that when those differ- 
ences are discussed and the principles of contending parties [sought to be] are 
supported with candor, fairness and moderation, the very discord which is 
thus produced, may in a government like ours, be conducive to the public 
good— we cheerfully admit 

But that when on the other hand, the opposition clearly evince, that all their 
clamors are the result of predetermined and Immutable hostility that, as 
between their own government and the open enemies of the land, they dare, 
n« circumstances may require, unblusbingly justify excuse or palliate the 
conduct of the latter and falsify, calumniate and condemn that of the 
former; when too In the means which are used to effect such unhallowed 
purposes, they are alike indifferent to the salutary provisions of the Constitu- 
tion, to the requisitions of national interest, or the obvious dictates of national 
honor — that at such a time it is the duty of every sound patriot, to do his 
utmost to arrest their guilty career, and to rescue from their aspiring grasp 
his bleeding country — no good man will deny. 

To prove that such has been the conduct, and that such are and have been the 
views of the party in this country which styles itself Federal — that their 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MABTIN VAN BUBEN. 51 

"history is a history of repeated Injuries and usurpations all having for 
their [direct] object," either the subjection of the rights and interests of their 
country to her ancient and unceasing foe, or a base prostitution of its fair 
fame for selfish and ambitious purposes "let facts be submitted to an in- 
telligent and patriotic people." 

Their opposition for the last thirteen years, has been universal, malignant 
and unceasing: their opposition was equally virulent when our country was 
basking in the sunshine of unparalleled prosperity, as it has been while her 
political horizon has been obscured by the clouds of adversity: 

They opposed the abolition of [direct and] internal taxes when those taxes 
were rendered unnecessary by the general prosperity of the country: they 
opposed the imposition of the same taxes when their imposition became 
necessary to the maintenance of our National honor : 

They opposed the reduction of the National debt, when the means of its 
reduction were in the power of the government : they opposed the increase of 
the national debt, when its increase, or an abandonment of every attribute of 
a free people, had become our only alternative: they clamored much on 
account of the aggressions on our commerce by the belligerents, and their 
Merchants presented petition after petition, and memorial after memorial, to 
Congress, that they should vindicate our commercial rights: they have uni- 
formly calumniated and opposed every measure of the government adopted 
for their vindication or support: they opposed [and evaded] all commercial 
restrictions on the ground of their inefflcacy, and that war, and war alone 
was the proper course for government to pursue, and on this subject they 
triumphantly declared "that the Administration could not be kicked into a 
war " : they opposed the war when it was declared on the ground that it was 
Impolitic, unjust, and unnecessary: 

They have always claimed to be the friends of order and the constitution, 
and as such friends of order and the constitution, their opposition to govern- 
ment, in the prosecution of the present just and necessary war, has been 
characterized by acts of violence, degeneracy and depravity without a parallel 
In the history of any civilized government on earth. 

To enumerate the various acts with which the feelings of the American 
people have been wounded and Insulted, the occasion will not admit of: Let 
their most prominent acts therefore, be alone considered. While the [un- 
divided] combined power of the enemy and his savage allies has been directed 
against us, and our frontiers drenched with blood of unoffending women and 
children, the undivided powers of the opposition have been exerted 

To destroy all confidence between the people and their government. 

To misrepresent the latter, and to deceive, distract and cajole the former. 

To deprive the government of the two great sinews of war — men and money : — 
preventing enlistments by discountenancing and calumniating both officers and 
soldiers — 

Defeating the necessary loans, by attempting to shake the confidence of the 
people In the stability of the government : 

To render the war odious and unpopular — 

By the most flagrant perversions of the matters in controversy, and the 
pretensions of our government ; 

By the most criminal justification of the conduct of the enemy and the 
vilest extenuation of all their enormities ; 

To parallze the arm of the government and frighten the weak and timid 
from its support — 

By exciting insurrection and rebellion in the east ; 



52 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

By openly threatening a dissolution of the union, and laboring incessantly 
to sow the seeds of Jealousy and disunion between the northern and southern 
states; and 

By exercising in each state the same unworthy means as are practised by 
them throughout the union. 

For while in this State they profess great solicitude for the sufferings of our 
citizens on the frontiers ; they have inveterately opposed the raising a volunteer 
corps for their defence unless under the disgraceful stipulation. — that they 
shall not annoy the enemy — while also they seek to hide the deformity of their 
conduct in relation to our army, by professing attachment to the naval service ; 
we find them opposing, with disgusting violence, a bill to encourage privateer- 
ing, which passed the Senate of this State, but was negatived by the Assembly, 
because it had for its object to' harass the enemy. 

But we forbear the disgusting enumeration of acts so evincive of a deplorable 
degeneracy of a great portion of the American people, so well calculated to 
continue the war into which our country has been driven — to tarnish our 
national character and (unless successfully resisted) to drive our government 
to an injurious and disgraceful peace. 

Therefore Resolved, That while we congratulate our fellow citizens on the 
happy revival of the feelings, sentiments, and spirit of the revolution which is 
every where manifesting itself; and our republican brethren in particular, on 
the heart cheering zeal and unanimity which pervades their ranks, which prom- 
ises the total overthrow of that Antl American spirit which disguised under the 
specious garb of Federalism, has too long preyed upon the vitals of the nation — 
which excites a lively hope that the councils of this great and powerful state 
will speedily be wholly rescued from the hands of those who have disgraced 
them — 

We warmly and earnestly conjure our Republican brethren, by the regard 
they have for their own rights; by the love they bear their country, and by the 
names of the departed worthies of the revolution, to be up and doing, and so to 
act that at the termination of the contest, each of them may triumphantly 
exclaim — " I have fought a good tight, I have finished my course — I have kept 
the faith." * 

Daniel Wabneb Cha'n 

P G Childs Se&ry. 

1 A copy of the Notes and Resolutions of this meeting, together with Van Buren> auto- 
graph draft of the Resolutions, are In the Van Buren Papers, 1814, April 14. 



CHAPTER IV. 

The election of 1814 which followed in a few weeks was the most 
important of any ever held in the State, and resulted in the complete 
humiliation of our opponents by a triumph that gladdened the 
heart of every patriot in the land. We, for the first time since 
the declaration of War elected not only a large majority of our 
Members of Congress, but majorities also in both Houses of the 
Legislature, and thus secured our ascendancy in every branch of 
the Government. In the succeeding month of August the enemy 
captured the city of Washington, burned the Capitol and other 
public buildings, and drove the President and his Cabinet from the 
Seat of Government. The regret occasioned by this event — this 
desecration of our most consecrated spot by the ruthless tread of 
hostile steps — was in no small degree relieved by the knowledge 
that New York had been rescued from the hands of an unrelenting 
faction, and might now be relied on to furnish efficient aid to the 
general Cause. 

The attention of the friends of the Country in all directions was 
therefore turned to Tompkins and the great State over which he 
presided. He did not disappoint their expectations but called an 
Extra-Session of the Legislature in the month of August, 1 and 
spread before it in an eloquent and patriotic Speech the actual 
condition of the Country — invoking its aid to support the National 
Arm. Never did a Legislative body assemble under circumstances 
of deeper interest, never one more solemnly impressed with a sense 
of the responsibilities resting upon it, never one more firmly and 
disinterestedly resolved to discharge all its duties. I was again 
appointed Chairman of the Committee on the Governor's Speech, 
and reported an answer which was adopted in the senate by acclama- 
tion and which I insert here. 

The Answer of the Senate to the Speech of His Excellency the Govebnob. 

Sib, 

The Senate at the close of their last session indulged with your Excellency 
In the pleasing expectation, that before this period the blessings of peace would 
have been restored to their country on terms consistent with its honor & 
Interest They are however by subsequent events reluctantly compelled to bear 
testimony to the insincerity of the professions on which those reasonable ex- 
pectations were founded. 

They have seen the enemy, while indulging in the vain hope that those pro- 
fessions would lead us into fancied but fatal Impressions of security, applying 

* The legislature met September 26, 1914.— W. C. F. 

63 






64 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

his energies to a vigorous prosecution of the war, and they have seen too with 
regret although not with dismay, that after having thus added duplicity to 
outrage, he has conducted the contest in a manner in the last degree disgrace- 
ful to a civilized nation & totally repugnant to the established rules of legiti- 
mate warfare. 

That he is actuated by the most malignant hostility — that during the present 
season he contemplated the most extensive injury to the future welfare of oar 
beloved country, if not the destruction of its constitution & the consequent 
prostration of our excellent political Institutions — that intoxicated by the re- 
cent events in Europe which have given to the political complexion of the world 
a new character, and seduced by his unlimited confidence In the invincibility 
of his Legions, he fondly hoped to carry victory into the very heart of the 
country & by the wide spread desolation which should mark his course to 
compel the American people if not to acknowledge the legitimacy of his 
authority at least to recognize & admit the supremacy of his power — rou&t 
be obvious to all. 

The Senate therefore in common with your excellency and as they hope the 
whole American people " cannot but exult that thus far we have sustained the 
shock with firmness & gathered laurels from the strife" — that although he 
has succeeded in penetrating to the Capital & In the conflagrations of the 
monuments of art with which by the enterprise & public spirit of the nation 
it had been adorned, his success has before this time been embittered with the 
reflection that by their blaze he has kindled a flame of patriotism, which 
prevades every section of the union, by which he has been seriously scorched 
at Baltimore, & which threatens his compleat annihilation at every assailable 
point of the union to which his ambition or his resentment may lead him. 

The Senate have witnessed with the same emotions, with the same enthusi- 
astic admiration evinced by your excellency the brilliant exploits achieved by 
our army & navy during the present campaign — achievements, which in their 
consequences have been so immediately & extensively beneficial to our frontier 
citizens, achievements which will not lose in the comparison with the most 
gallant efforts of the veterans of the old world — exploits that have pierced the 
gloom which for a season obscured our political horizon & dispelled the fearful 
forebodings which past disasters had excited — exploits which have fully main- 
tained if not enhanced the proud & enviable fame of our gallant tars — which 
have covered the actors in those bright scenes with never fading laurels and 
which will until public gratitude ceases to be a public virtue ensure the highest 
testimonials which a free people can yield to freemen — unceasing reverence for 
the memory of those who have died on the field of honor & acts of unceasing 
gratitude & esteem towards their noble survivors. 

The Senate have seen with great satisfaction the prompt & efficacious meas- 
ures adopted by your excellency to avert the dangers which impended [?] the 
State, and believing as they do that whatever excess of executive authority may 
have been indulged in, it has been not only exclusively Intended for the promo- 
tion of the general good but was moreover rendered indispensible by the im- 
perious nature of existing circumstances — they cannot doubt but that the acts 
to which your excellency has referred will be such as to command their appro- 
bation & support 

The Senate cannot forego the opportunity afforded them of uniting with your 
excellency, in an expression of the high satisfaction with which they have 
observed the increasing unanimity & noble ardour in our countries cause which 
pervades almost the whole community. 

That on questions of local policy and the fitness of men for public stations 
we should ever be exempt from differences of opinion was not to be expected, 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN VAN BUREN. 55 

divisions like those are inseparable from the blessings of our free constitution 
and although sometimes carryed to excess & made to produce a virulence & 
malignity which all good men must deplore, they are notwithstanding productive 
of much national good. But to have supposed that a people jealous of their 
rights & proud of their national character could, on the question of resisting the 
aggressions of the open enemies of the land— aggressions which have polluted 
the soil & which threaten the demolition of those fair fabrics which have been 
consecrated to freedom by the Blood & sufferings of their fathers — that on a 
question of such vital moment, so well calculated to excite all the patriotism, 
to arouse all the Spirit & to call into vigorous action all the latent energies of 
the nation — they would long continue to waste their strength in criminal and 
unprofitable collisions would have been a base libel on their character. 

While therefore the Senate will at all times do all that in them lies to 
frustrate the efforts, to defeat the projects & to expose to public obloquy & 
reproach the conduct of all those who destitute of that noble love of country 
which should characterise Americans at this perilous crisis of our affairs, who 
preferring the Interests of party to those of their country, or actuated by 
motives more deeply criminal, shall attempt to aid the foe by heaping un- 
founded calumnies on the constituted authorities of the Country, or shall 
seek to excite distraction & alarm in the councils of the nation or in any 
other way attempt to paralize the arm of government, yet freely sensible 
that M every difference of opinion is not a difference in principle" they will 
on all occasions feel it to be their duty as it is their wish to afford to the 
meritorious soldier his due reward, without regard to sect or party. 

The great Interest which the State of New York has in the prosecution & 
termination of the controversy in which our country is involved, the high 
destiny to which her local situation, the extent of her resources, the liberality 
of her legislature & the ardor of her sons may lead her, have been duly 
appreciated by your excellency. The Senate pledge their best exertion to 
realize those great & well founded expectations and relying on the Justice of 
our cause for the approvement of a Just God they cannot but flatter them- 
selves, that in due season the American arms will be crowned with compleat 
success & the mild reign of peace be restored to our now oppressed & bleeding 
country. 1 

Among the first proceedings was my introduction of the "Classi- 
fication Bill" — prepared by myself after full consultation with our 
friends in both Houses, and let me add, in justice to one who, with 
a capacity scarcely inferior to any, failed so sadly in the estimation 
of his Countrymen, after availing myself also of the military expe- 
rience of Aaron Burr who was then at Albany. This Bill author- 
ized the Governor to call into actual service Twelve Thousand of the 
State Militia, to be taken from or recruited by Classes to be formed 
out of the free white male inhabitants of the State, over the age 
of 18 years, according to their respective estates, abilities and cir- 
cumstances. If any Class failed to produce an able bodied man, any 
member of the class might furnish him, and thereby entitle himself 
to the sum of Two Hundred Dollars, to be raised by assessment from 
the whole class, according to the appraisement or valuation ap- 

1 From the autograph draft by Van Buren In the Van Buren Papers, Library of Con- 
gress. The speech is printed In the Journal of the New York Senate under date of 
October 4, 1814, and waa presented to the Governor October 5. 



56 AMEBICAN HISTORICAL ASSOClAttOtf. 

pended to the Enrolment, and if a man was not thus produced the 
Bill contained other stringent provisions to enable the proper offi- 
cer to procure him, at the expense of the class in default, upon the 
same principle. The troops thus raised were to supply to that extent 
calls by the Federal Government upon the State Militia. The object 
was not only to improve the character of the aid rendered to the 
service, under calls for Militia, by the superior efficiency of troops 
thus raised over undisciplined recruits, but also to render the con- 
tributions of the People to Militia Service more proportionate to 
their interests and Means that was the case under the then existing 
law. The Bill proceeded upon the principle that all expenses in- 
curred, or burdens imposed to preserve domestic order or to 
repel invasion should be borne as nearly as possible by each 
citizen proportionately to his interests, pecuniary as well as per- 
sonal, in the benefits to be thus secured : in other words to apply to 
the Militia Service the principle that has always prevailed in regard 
to the support of the Army and Navy. The Bill excited the indigna- 
tion of the wealthy classes generally, and particularly of those 
among them who were opposed to the War, and I was of course 
grossly abused by their mouth-pieces — so much so that in my own. 
County the federal press advised its readers to withhold the courte- 
sies of life from so bad a man. On one occasion I was accosted in 
the street by my great professional antagonist, Elisha Williams, 
(then a member of the House of Assembly) with this character- 
istic remark, — "Van Buren, my federal friends are such fools 

as to believe" that you are in earnest with your Conscription Bill, 
and mean to carry it through, and I cannot convince them to the 
contrary." I told him that his friends were right, and that I was 
surprised to find that they understood me better than he, who ought 
to know me best. He raised both hands in amazement and replied 
that he had always regarded me as a man of too much sense to get 
into such a scrape. 

We fought the Bill through against the violent opposition of the 
Federalists aided by General Root, who denounced it with great bit- 
terness. 1 * His opposition was, however, much more than counterbal- 
anced by the manly and vigorous support of several of the [Federal- 
ist?] Senators. General Scott sent a copy of the Bill to Mr. Monroe, 
then Secretary of War, and it was believed to have entered into the 
composition of a somewhat similar plan that he recommended to 
Congress. 8 Governor Tompkins waited till the regular. Winter ses- 
sion to obtain some amendments necessary to facilitate its execution, 

* The bill became a law October 24, 1814.— W. C. P. 

* Monroe's measure may be studied from his " Explanatory observations " and other 
papers In the State Papers, Military Affairs, I, 615, and in Henry Adams, History of 
the United States, VIII, 264.— W. C ff. 



AT7T0BI00EAPHY OF MAMTtf VAN BTJBEff. 57 

upon points which had been overlooked in our anxiety to establish 
the principle; I applied at the opening of the session for a Commit- 
tee, and we were engaged upon the subject when the Express ar- 
rived bringing the news of peace. The original draft of the Bill, in 
my handwriting, is filed among the archives of the Senate, with the 
following endorsement: — 

The original classification Bill — to be preserved as a Memento of the Patriot- 
ism, Intelligence and Firmness of the Legislature of 1814-16. 

M. V. Buben. 
Filed, Feb 7 21" 1815 

The additional results of the active patriotism of the Republican 
members were Bills to raise the pay of the Militia while in the 
service of the United States, — to Encourage Privateering — to raise a 
Corps of Sea fencibles, — and to raise two Regiments of colored men. 
These laws were Jrighly approved at Washington, and President' 
Madison, to testify the sense of the national administration of the 
high stand taken by New York, offered to Governor Tompkins the 
office of Secretary of State, 1 made vacant by [the transfer of James 
Monroe to the War Department] 

Although surrounded by difficulties which were calculated to dis- 
turb the strongest nerves and constantly obliged to jeopard his 
private fortune by personal responsibilities, indispensably assumed 
for the public service, and thereby laying the foundation for the de- 
struction of his future peace of mind, he [Tompkins] declined an 
appointment which was then regarded as the stepping stone to the 
Presidency. The reason assigned for his declension was his convic- 
tion that he could, during the continuance of the War, be of more 
service to the country in the position of Governor of New York, than 
in that of Secretary of State. There is no doubt that this was the 
only consideration that determined his conduct, and it presented an 
instance of pure and self sacrificing patriotism, rarely equalled and 
certainly not surpassed by any single act during the War. 

Chancellor Kent objected, in the Council of Revision, to the 
Classification Bill, the Bill to raise a ° corps of sea-f encibles, and the 
Bill to encourage Privateering, and delivered an Opinion, which 
savoured more than was deemed suitable to the occasion of an ap- 
peal to popular prejudices. My friend Col. Samuel Young, who had 
commenced his legislative career at the previous session, with much 
promise, and was now Speaker of the Assembly, answered and suc- 
cessfully refuted the Chancellor's objections to the Classification 
Act in one or two able numbers published in the Albany Argus, over 
the signature- of " Juris consuttus" The Chancellor replied over 

i offer made September 29, 1814.— W. C. F. ♦ MS. I, Jk 75. 



58 AXERICAK HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

that of "Amicus Curiae" Col. Young, having confined himself 
principally to the Classification Bill, I took op the subject of the 
Chancellor's objections to the Bill to encourage Privateering, over 
the signature of "Amicus Juris consultus" Finding that he had in* 
volved himself in a controversy uncongenial with his amiable and 
generally pacific disposition, the Chancellor retired with a Card, 
indicative of a sense of discomfiture. This was replied to by Amicus 
Juris Consultus, in the same form, and the discussion was closed. 

The Chancellor's second and last number in reply to Juris Con- 
sultus appeared on the 28th of November 1814, and concluded with 
the following sentence; — "The public attention appears now to 
be properly awakened to the all important merits of our Conscription 
Policy. I am a great friend to the freedom and utility of public 
discussion, and I have no doubt it will be found now, as it has in 
all former times, that a free press is the great guardian of civil 
Liberty. So fully do I believe in its efficiency that if the Consti- 
tution was subverted and tyranny seated on the throne, 
surrounded by her sycophants, her parasites, her informers, her 
guards, her assassins and her executioners, a free press would restore 
the one and overturn the other." 

The first number of Amicus Juris Consul tus appeared on the next 
day, and the Chancellors card (which will be found with it), on 
the second day following. 

I have deemed the portion of these papers in my possession worthy 
of preservation, and they accompany this Memoir. 1 not on account 
of their merits, but from higher considerations. The spirit with 
which the publick mind influenced and supported the legislation 
referred to, when regarded in connection with the actual position 
and pretensions of the enemy, afford, I cannot but think, a most 
gratifying exhibition of the character of our People under circum- 
stances more trying than any to which our Country has been ex- 
posed since the War of the Revolution. - The sacking of Washing- 
ton — that wanton act of barbarity — and the temporary dispersion 
of the Government, have already been spoken of. These had been 
followed up by a formal announcement to the President by the 
British naval Commander on our coast upon pretences of the most 
unfounded character, that he intended to employ the forces under 
his direction " in destroying and laying waste such towns and dis- 
tricts on our coast as might be found assailable.'* By despatches 
received from our Ministers at Ghent (during the brief Extra-ses- 
sion at which these laws were passed, and this objection interposed) 
it appears that the demands of the Enemy were as follows: 

1 In the Van Boren Papers under dates of Nov. and Dee. 1814. 

• Cochrane to Monroe, August 18, 1814 — before the sacking of Washington. — W. C F. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN VAN BtTREN. 69 

1st That their Indian Allies should be embraced in the treaty, and 
a boundary line between them and us permanently settled, beyond 
which we should not be permitted to purchase any land, or exercise 
jurisdiction; and a line was proposed by which the United States 
would have deprived themselves of the jurisdiction of at least one 
third of their original territory, including large portions of the 
population of Ohio, Michigan, and Illinois Territories, and which 
would also have annulled several Treaties we had made with the 
Indian Tribes by which the Indian Title to several millions of acres 
of land had been extinguished ; and this article was declared to be a 
sine qua non to a Treaty of Peace: 

2d. That the entire military command of the Lakes, from Ontario 
to Erie, inclusive, in the form of an exclusive right to maintain naval 
armaments upon them and military Posts on their shores should be 
secured to Great Britain; the British Commissioners declining to 
answer, for the present, the question whether this was also to be 
regarded as a sine qua non for the reason that they had already 
proposed one article of that character : 

3d. That there should be a cession of as much of the territory of 
Maine as might be necessary for a direct communication between 
Halifax and Quebeck : 

4th. That our Fishermen should no longer have the right to dry 
their fish on the coast of New Foundland ; and 

5th. That a new Boundary should be run between them and us 
from Lake Superior to the Mississippi. 1 

The indignation excited by these atrocious acts and insolent de- 
mands was intense, and soon satisfied the enemy that their crimes 
were also great blunders. It was at this crisis that Hufus King 
and other distinguished federalists withdrew their opposition 
to the War, and cast the weight of their influence on the side of 
their own Country, 2 and in our Legislature — hitherto, and still to a 
great extent, the hot-bed of faction — there were not wanting symp- 
toms of relaxation. 

Col. Benton, in his recent able work, places the subject of the 
conclusion of peace, without any stipulation of the subject of Im- 
pressment, upon its true grounds. That question was better dis- 
posed of than it would have been by any stipulation. We would 
now regard it as inconsistent with our national honor to ask or 
receive any promise on that point as the price of peace. The world 
knows that any action based upon such pretension in respect to our 
sailors would be tantamount to a declaration of War. During her 
recent war with Russia Great Britain has wisely taken a step in 

1 flee Henry Adams, History of the United States, lx, 17. — W. C. F. 
•Bee a memorandum, dated October, 1814, on the policy of the Federalists In the Life 
snd Correspondence of Rufns King, V, 422. — W. C. F. 



60 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION, 

advance upon the general subject of maritime rights, 1 and there 
is no reason to apprehend that any similar questions will ever again 
be the cause of War between two Nations which have such strong 
inducements to be at peace. 

Our exemption from further molestation in these respects is one 
of the results of the War of 1812 and one of the many reasons why 
that event should be regarded as having been of more advantage 
to us than any that has occurred since the adoption of the Federal 
Constitution. 

I cannot allow myself to pass from the subject of the demands of 
the British Government without congratulating my countrymen on 
the dignity and immense power that the United States have ac- 
quired since that day. What nation in the world would now deem 
it either wise or safe to propose to us such terms as indispensable 
conditions to a treaty of peace ? Not one. 

The laws to which the Chancellor objected were passed in the 
Assembly by a vote of nearly three fourths, and, in the Senate, 
of about two thirds. In addition to this a Resolution passed the 
Assembly unanimously and was concurred in by the Senate, with 
equal cordiality, declaring "that the House of Assembly of the 
State of New York view with mingled emotions of surprise and 
indignation the extravagant and disgraceful terms proposed by 
the British Commissioners at Ghent; that however ardently they 
might desire the restoration of peace to their country, they would 
never consent to receive it at the sacrifice of National honor and 
dignity." But it was seen with pain and regret that a very slight 
portion, if any, of these feelings had reached the breast of the 
Chancellor, or it would perhaps be nearer the truth to say, of those 
by whose counsels his political course was greatly influenced. Ob- 
jections founded on exclusively constitutional grounds, expressed 
with moderation, and accompanied by circumstances indicative of 
regret that official duty prevented a different conclusion, would 
doubtless have been received in a liberal and indulgent spirit, but 
the construction and temper of his Opinion closed the door against 
any such inferences, and the fact, charged at the time and never 
denied that he furnished a copy for the newspapers, shewed that it 
originated in a partizan spirit. It was under these circumstances 
that Col. Young and myself, both young men, then only in the second 
year of our public service, stepped forward and arraigned the con- 
duct of the Chancellor at the bar of publick opinion in terms that 
we would, in a different state of things, have never thought of em- 
ploying. If anything were wanting besides what appears in the 

l Thls refers to the declaration adopted In April, 1856, by a congress of several mari- 
time Powers assembled at Paris. The position of the United States is given In Wharton, 
Digest of the International Law of the United States, X, 842. — W. C. F. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF M ARTIST VAN BTJBEN. 61 

articles written by me to shew the absence of any personal ill will on 
my part, it will be abundantly furnished by the following circum- 
stances. The Chancellor, shortly afterwards, determined to abstain 
from all participation in party politics, and wrote a letter to that 
effect to his friend Josiah Ogden Hoffman, which was published. 
As soon as it appeared I wrote an article for the Argus, the original 
draft of which is still among my papers, 1 and the portion of which 
relating to this subject was as follows: — 

Mr. Btjel. — I hope you will not fail to lay before your readers the 
very interesting letter from Chancellor Kent to Mr. Hoffman. It 
cannot fail to be gratifying to every real friend to the Judiciary. 
They have witnessed with regret the unceasing attempts which have 
been for some time making by his Judicial friends to draw him, 
with them, into all the petty intrigues of a Cabal which keeps the 
state in commotion, in the hope that if they could not derive a full 
excuse from his participation, they would at least divide the odium 
by his community. The determination to withdraw himself from 
the party dissensions of the day, and to devote his time and atten- 
tion to the studies and duties of his office, expressed in this letter, is 
as it should be. His distinguished merits have been a subject of 
general admiration, and not unfrequently, it is feared, of sinister 
commendation. It is however but bare justice to him to say that 
among the list of worthies who have at periods filled our highest 
Judicial Offices, many of whom have descended to the tomb, accom- 
panied by the benedictions of their fellow citizens, there has not been 
one who for spotless purity and exemplary industry in the discharge 
of his Judicial duties, has excelled the present Chancellor. There is 
no Equity Tribunal in this Country organized like our Court of 
Chancery ; not one in which a single Judge ° possesses such extensive 
powers, and it is a source of just pride and satisfaction, that without 
subjecting ourselves to the charge of arrogance we can safely chal- 
lenge a comparison in point of learning, industry and all the quali- 
ties requisite for a Judge, between the present incumbent and the 
brightest luminaries of the law throughout the Union. As such his 
character is the property of the State, and should be guarded against 
encroachments with the utmost jealousy, and as such too it is doubly 
important that by his total exclusion from the angry conflicts of 
party (with which ftiis State is yet, for a season, doomed to be 
afflicted,) all obstacles to yielding him our united and cheerful ap- 
plause should be removed ; so that when Virginians, without regard 
to party, expatiate on the distinguished talents of their Marshall, — 
when our Eastern brethren dwell with enthusiasm on the memory 
of their justly celebrated Parsons and boast of the erudition of 

1 Not found among the Van Buren Papers. ° MS. I, jk 80. 



62 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

their Story, we too may be able to point to a Judicial character, on 
which New York reposes her claims to a fair equality with the 
proudest of her sister States. 

A steady adherence to the resolution contained in this letter is all 
that is necessary to secure this great End — every thing but that is 
already done. The Republicans of the State do not desire, nor would 
they approve the active co-operation of the Judges of our superior 
Courts in those party strifes which our free political institutions 
must and will produce. The utmost of their wish is to see them 
" devote their time <md attention to the studies and duties of their 
office." Let Chancellor Kent therefore persevere in his praise- 
worthy determination, and at the appointed day when, by the im- 
perious provision of our Constitution, the high powers which have 
been delegated to him must be surrendered, he will find that that 
Party which can neither be intimidated by oppression, seduced by 
corruption, nor circumvented by artifice, is not wanting in liberality 
even to political opponents, — but there is no class of men who take 
more pleasure than they in bestowing the unbought and freewill offer- 
ing of their approbation and support upon official merit. 

While passing down the river on the morning after the appear- 
ance of my Card I met on the steamboat with a very clever lady and 
devoted friend of the Chancellor, who charged me with cruelty in 
exciting him to the extent she had herself witnessed that morning; 
and, which made it worse, she said, he was very far from being my 
enemy. I replied that she could not herself have seen the Card 
she referred to, or a person of her good sense would have perceived 
that the writer, whoever he might be, was none other than a true 
friend of the Chancellor. This profession in respect to my own 
feelings was entirely sincere. From my first acquaintance with him, 
until his death, I entertained for him sentiments of true esteem and 
great respect If it is not a compliment too broad to be paid to any 
man, considering the frailty of human nature, and the bad influences 
to which the best are exposed at times, through their passions, I 
would say that I do not believe that he ever, in his long and honor- 
able career, did an act, whatever may have been its error, that he at 
least did not conscientiously think to be right I was first pre- 
sented to him on my return home from the city of New York, where 
I had been studying law, at the Columbian Circuit which he was 
holding. He was sitting in the shade after the labours of the sum- 
mer's day surrounded by a group composed of William P. Van 
Ness, Elisha Williams, Thomas P. Grosvenor, and others, who were 
greatly excited in consequence of some political occurrence, and 
were giving vent to their feelings in the severest terms. They retired 
one after another, and when he and myself were about the only 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MABTIN VAN BUREN. 63 

persons present he rose from his seat and exclaimed, " Oh ! these poli- 
ticians ! What trouble and vexation do they not cause ! for myself 
I have been content to eat my cake in peace," and, tapping me on 
the shoulder, added — " don't you think that is the wisest course, 
young man ! " Almost, if not quite the last time I had the pleasure 
of meeting him, was nearly forty years afterwards in New York 
and in the street, on my way home from Washington, after the ex- 
piration of my Presidential Term. He took both my hands, ex- 
pressed his great satisfaction in having met me, and insisted on my 
acccpnpanying him to his house which was near at hand; and on 
my consenting to do so, he said at once, " I have to ask your pardon, 
Sir, for the part I have taken in assisting to turn you out, and put- 
ting a man in your place, who is wholly unfit for it. I pledge you 
my honor, Sir, that I was then wholly ignorant of the fact, but now 
I know all about it ! ' You made a very good President ; I did not 
approve "of all you did — but you did nothing of which either of us 
has reason to be ashamed ; and we ought not to have turned you out, 
without placing a more competent man in your place, and in that 
matter I was sadly deceived, and I have, ever since I understood 
it, desired an opportunity to say to you what I now say ! " I found 
it impossible to stop him until we had reached his house, when he 
introduced me to Mrs. Kent, and repeated to her what he had said 
to me. I spent an agreeable hour with him and parted with a 
promise on his part that he would pay me a visit in the country. 

In my experience of men I have never known three men who 
received so nearly the same stamp from the hand of Nature as James 
Madison, Bushrod Washington and James Kent. In the simplicity, 
sincerity and inoffensiveness of their dispositions they were identi- 
cal; each owned a delightful cheerfulness of temperament and an 
unvarying desire to develop that heaven-born quality in others. 
With a buoyancy of spirits and manners sometimes bordering on 
levity, they never for a moment hazarded the respect of their friends 
or of those about them. Mr. Madison's life having been devoted to 
politicks he was more reserved in regard to public affairs, but upon 
all other subjects they spoke their sentiments with the simplicity 
and directness of children. Kent possessed more genius and learning 
than his brother Judge, but Washington's mind was of a highly 
respectable order. Mr. Emmet, in speaking to me of Kent, said that 
he was a learned and able Judge — but a poor Jury-man. The justice 
of this distinction frequently occurred to me. Elevated to the Bench 
at an early age, and ardently devoted to domestic life, he had 
mixed but little with the world and was proportionally disqualified 
to sift and weigh testimony. This was strikingly exhibited at the 
commencement of his official duties as Chancellor. Being obliged in 



64 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

most cases to decide both law and fact, and too liable to be led into 
extremes, by his detestation of fraud, several of his first decrees 
failed to stand the test of i^view in the Court for the Correction of 
Errors. At the first or second Term of that Court, not fewer than 
six of his Decrees (speaking from memory) were reversed with the 
concurrence of his former brethren of the Supreme Court. Having 
occasion to call at his office the next morning on professional busi- 
ness, he» displayed, in my presence, what, in almost any other man, 
would have been regarded as undignified violence of temper and 
manner, but would not, to one who knew him well, bear any -such 
construction. The reversals of the preceding day having been re- 
ferred to, he broke out into a mock tirade against the Judges, to the 
following effect ; — " They are unfit for their places, Mr. Van Buren ; 
You know that they are ! Spencer and Van Ness are able enough, 
but instead of studying their cases they devote their time to poli- 
ticks! You know that, as well as I do! As to Judge Yates" — 
raising his hands — " I need say nothing! Ton should roll hdm> back 
to Schenectady!" (an allusion to Judge Y's personal appearance, 
borrowed from Mr. Clinton,) — "Andlw to my cousin Pi*att! He is 
only fit to be Head Deacon to a Presbyterian Church, and for nothing 
else ! " * 

The memories of the older members of the Bar must abound in 
the recollection of similar ebullitions. On one occasion when I was 
present at his Chambers, a young attorney was applying for admis- 
sion as Solicitor in Chancery. Finding (as was very evident) that 
he could not bring his case within the rules, he referred to the ad- 
mission under similar circumstances of an attorney from a neigh- 
bouring city whose rough manners were notorious. Before he had 
finished his statement His Honor interrupted him in the following 
strain — " I deny it ! Sir ! It is not true ! I did not admit him ! 
He broke in ! How would you keep such a fellow out! — But you 
are a gentleman, and must not try to imitate such a bad example. 
Wait till ° the proper time and I will admit you with pleasure." At 
an earlier period he had been holding a tedious Circuit in Columbia, 
and, on the last day, tried an action for an assault and battery on a 



1 " To tell you the truth, I am discouraged and heartbroken. The judges have pre- 
vailed on the Court of Errors to reverse all my best decisions. They have reversed Frost 
v. Beekman, the Methodist Episcopal Church v. Jacques, Anderson v. Boyd, and others. 
After such devastation, what courage ought I to have to study and write elaborate opin- 
ions? There are but two sides to every case, and I am so unfortunate as always to take 
the wrong side. I never felt more disgusted with the judges in all my life, and I ex- 
pressed myself to Judge Piatt in a way to mortify and offend him. According to my 
present feelings and sentiments, I will never consent to publish another opinion, and 1 
have taken and removed out of sight and out of my office into another room my three 
volumes of Chancery Reports. They were too fearful when standing before my eyes.*' 
.fames Kent to William Johnson, April, 1820. Kent, Memoirs and Letters of James Kent, 
p. 18a — W. C. P. 

° MS. I, p. 80. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN VAN BUREN. 65 

negro. It appeared that the negro's conduct had been improper, and 
the Jury gave him only six cents damages. He had brought an- 
other suit against another defendant for the same assault that was 
also on the Calendar, but had been passed. The Plaintiff wished to 
have it tried at the close of the circuit and the Judge refused, saying 
that he had had his chance, but on the representation of Plaintiff's 
counsel that his client was poor and would be liable to heavy costs, the 
Judge consented, with an admonition to the Counsel that if he did 
not recover more than six cents in the other cause he would not give 
him a certificate to entitle him to costs. The Clerk commenced call- 
ing the Jury, when the Judge looked at his watch and exclaimed, 
" Stop, Clerk ! I'll be hanged if I will try the other Cause ! The 
Negro was saucy and deserved to be whipped! Crier! adjourn the 
Court!" 

127488°— vol 2—20 6 



CHAPTER V. 

The return of peace naturally revived rival aspirations for political 
distinction which had been in some degree suspended, on the Re- 
publican side, by the engrossing cares and responsibilities of the War. 

The question in regard to Gen. [Obadiah] German's successor in 
the Senate of the United States took the lead in our State affairs. 
The personal and political relations between Judge Spencer and 
myself had been harmonious during the War; more so than ever 
before, and, I regret to be obliged to add, than they ever were 
afterwards. He was exceedingly anxious for the appointment of 
his old friend Gen. Armstrong, and pressed me with his accus- 
tomed earnestness to unite in his support. I could not consent to 
this proposal, but offered at once and with entire sincerity to sup- 
port the Judge himself. He expressed his gratification at this offer, 
but declined becoming a Candidate, on the ground that his pur- 
suits had not been of a character to qualify him for the place; and 
he did not discontinue his efforts to induce me to go for his friend. At 
our last interview that took place at his own house and by appoint- 
ment, he submitted to me a great number of letters received by him 
from different parts of the state in favor of Gen. Armstrong to re- 
fute the opinion I had expressed that his efforts in favor of the 
General might prove a failure. I had, before this interview, come 
to the conclusion to support Nathan Sanford, of which fact I then 
apprised the Judge. He was somewhat excited, but received the 
communication in a much better spirit than was usual with him 
when his wishes were opposed, repeated his entire confidence in 
Gen. Armstrong's success, and expressed a hope that our difference 
would be an amiable one. Understanding his disposition and satis- 
fied that when he found that he might fail in his design he would 
not be able to persevere in the liberal feelings he then professed, I 
deemed it an act of prudence to look out in season for the means 
of self defense. The Council of Appointment was in those days 
the only secure citadel of political strength to its possessors, and to 
that my attention was directed. In regular course Mr. Sanford 
would be selected for that Council from the Southern District; 
Ruggles Hubbard was the only Republican Senator from the Eastern 
District, and must therefore be chosen; with them and my friend 
Lucas Elmendorff from my own — the Middle District — we would 
have three out of the four members, and might feel ourselves safe 
from persecution for the act of rebellion we meditated against 
06 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN VAN BTTREN. 67 

Judge Spencer's long acknowledged supremacy. These we had 
the power, to elect, but at the Meeting of the Legislature Mr. San- 
ford declined a place in the Council, and recommended the selec- 
tion of Judge [Jonathan] Dayton. By this act Col. Young, one of 
the most efficient of his supporters, was sacrificed to Spencer's re- 
sentment, as would have been the case with myself if I had had no 
other reliance than on Mr. Sanford's support. Dayton, Elmendorff, 
Hubbard and Col. [Farrand] Stranahan (a friend of the Judge) 
were chosen for the Council. 1 Judge Spencer continued for a sea- 
son to support General Armstrong with great spirit but was finally 
compelled to abandon his case as hopeless. He then brought for- 
ward the name of his friend Elisha Jenkins but with no better 
success. Finally his own name was introduced into the Canvass, 
and the matter treated by his friends as if the only question was 
whether he would consent to take the office. When he was proposed 
in the Caucus, gentlemen who had dined in company with him but 
a few hours before made conflicting statements in regard to his 
willingness to take the place. 8 This produced a motion on the part 
of one of his friends that a committee should wait on him to ascer- 
tain whether he would serve if appointed. I opposed this motion, 
and cautioned his friends to reflect that the appointment of such a 
Committee would be tantamount to a declaration that a majority 
were in his favor — which I was very confident was not the case — and 
that if they should prove to be mistaken on this point they would 
practice a cruel deception upon their friend if they should obtain 
his consent. The motion was however persisted in and lost I then 
moved for a recess of one hour, to give the Judge's friends an op- 
portunity to consult him if they were so disposed. They availed 
themselves of it, reported his declension to stand as a Candidate, 8 
and Mr. Sanford was nominated without an organized opposition. 

Whilst we were proceeding in the election on the following day, 
Judge Woodworth came into the Senate Chamber, and directing 
Sanford's attention to him I said "There is the man who will be 
used by Judge Spencer to punish me for what we are now doing." 
When the Senate adjourned Woodworth stepped towards Sanford 
and myself, and invited us to drive to our lodgings in his sleigh, 
and on our way proposed a visit at his house. While there he was 
vociferous in his exultation at the triumph we had obtained over an 
" influence " (referring to Spencer) which had, he said, ruled the 
State too long. After we parted from him, Mr. Sanford asked me 
whether I did not regret the injustice I had done a friend. I an- 

1 The election occurred February 1, 1815. — W. C. F. 

* Hammond says (I, 393, note) that It was Van Bnren who stated that he did not 
believe Judge Spencer would consent to be a candidate. — W. C F. 

•" Because he would not put himself in competition with so young a man as San- 
ford.**— (Hammond, I, 893 note).— W. C. F. 



68 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

swered in the negative, and told him that Woodworth knew nothing 
of the matter yet, but that the Judge would send for him in the 
evening and obtain his consent to be a candidate against me for the 
office of Attorney General. The desire of the party that I should 
be appointed to that office was so general that until that time no 
other name had been spoken of. The movement, as I told Sanford, 
would be founded oijl the assumption that Stranahan would certainly 
go with the Judge ; that Hubbard who was a near relative of Wood- 
worth, and had been to some extent brought up by him, could be 
easily induced to vote for him, and that Spencer's influence with, 
the Governor, aided by the fact that considerable uneasiness had 
arisen between the latter and myself in respect to local appointments 
in my county, would be sufficient to induce him to give the casting 
vote against me. 

A few days afterwards the Governor gave his first State dinner 
at which were present most of the parties to the political broil then 
in embryo, except myself — confined to my own quarters by a severe 
cold. In the evening Sanford and Buggies [Hubbard] called at my 
room, in much excitement, and informed me that the Governor had 
shown them before they left him, Woodworth's application for the 
office of Attorney General, and had also told them that when the 
application was presented Woodworth had given him to understand 
that his friends contemplated the passage of a law for the appoint- 
ment of two additional Judges of the Supreme Court, and that if 
my friends would sustain that measure and allow the appointment of 
Judges and Attorney General to proceed pari passu he would accept 
the office of Judge and withdraw his application for the Attorney 
Generalship. Mr. Hubbard knowing that he was to be in the Coun- 
cil and apprehending ° that he might be embarrassed by an applica- 
tion from Woodworth had written me a letter expressing his prefer- 
ence for me for the office in question and pledging himself to vote 
in my favor. This he thought would furnish him with a satisfactory 
answer to all importunities. I took this letter from my desk, and 
after reminding Mr. Sanford of my anticipations, explained its con- 
tents and pointing out to Mr. Hubbard the impropriety of writing 
it offered to return it to him with a declaration that I should insist 
on his voting for Woodworth, and on his refusing to receive it, I 
threw it into the fire. I then told him that I was opposed to the 
proposed increase on the Bench upon principle, and that if I were 
not I could never consent to support the measure after so profligate 
a proposition had been attached to it, and requested Mr. Hubbard 
to inform Woodworth that if a movement in that direction was made 
in the Senate by any of his friends, I would repeat from my place 

• MS. I P in 00. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN VAK BUREN. 69 

his declarations to the Governor, and denounce the proposed arrange- 
ment as corrupt. Ruggles Hubbard was a noble hearted, enthusiastic 
and confiding young man and through these qualities he was liable 
sometimes to be misled by designings persons, whilst his motives were 
always honest and generous. 1 He was a zealous friend of mine, and 
as I have already said he was nearly connected with Woodworth 
(his sister having been Woodworth's first wife, I believe) and I was 
unwilling that he should gratify his feelings at the expense of a 
rupture with his relative. I therefore in the presence of Mr. San- 
ford, repeated my desire that he would take the course I had at first 
recommended. He answered that he was desirous to preserve the 
friendship of Mr. Woodworth, and could not at the moment say how 
far he might be induced to go to serve him, but that nothing on earth 
could induce him to give a vote that would defeat my appointment. 
After urging him farther on the point we parted. A few days later 
he called at my room in high spirits and told me that he had un- 
bosomed himself to Governor Tompkins who had readily relieved 
him by the assurance that if there was a tie in the Council he would 
be glad of the opportunity to give the casting vote in my favor be- 
cause he thought me entitled to the place and because he knew that 
the People desired that I should have it. 

The practice of the Council had always been to meet at the Gov- 
ernor's Boom, and to commence and finish their proceedings there. 
It was now proposed and agreed to that they should first meet at 
their own rooms in the city, and agree upon what they were to do, 
and then go to the Governor's office to record their decisions. The 
design doubtless was to lessen the influence of the Governor, but 
this was not suspected by Elmendorff and Dayton. A more active 
or a more indomitable spirit than Judge Spencer's never existed. 
Deeply offended by the choice of Senator, and seeing in the result, 
as he thought, a design on the part of the young men of the party 
to cast off his control over its action, he had determined not to con- 
tent himself with my defeat, but had carefully prepared a blow with 
which to assail us in an unexpected quarter. 

I was engaged to dine with my old friend Matthew Gregory on 
the day appointed for the first meeting of the Council, and on my 
way to his house I met Hubbard. Seeing in his speaking counten- 
ance indications of distress I enquired after the cause, and, in reply, 
he gave me a history of the proceedings of the Council at their in- 
formal meeting, which had just broken up. On my nomination there 
had been a tie; Elmendorff and Dayton voting for me, and Stran- 
ahan and himself for Woodworth, but Col. Young's nomination, as 
Secretary of State, in respect to which no question had been raised 

* A different character 1b given by Hammond, I, 8861, note* — W. C F. 



70 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

or was expected, had been defeated, and Elisha Jenkins had been 
agreed upon. I begged him to go at once to Mr. Sanford and to 
ask his interference. He answered that it would be useless, as Mr. 
Dayton's pride had been assailed and his mind prejudiced by insinua- 
tions that he was Sanford's representative in the Council, and any 
appeal from that quarter would therefore do more harm than good ; 
and any attempt to arrest the appointment in the afternoon, at the 
regular meeting of the Council, he thought would be unavailing — 
so that all he had to do was to apprise CoL Young of what had been 
done. Judge Spencer had furthermore quietly operated upon Mr. 
Elmendorff , who had acted with him so long that he could not refuse 
to gratify him in regard to the appointment of his friend Jenkins, 
as a sort of peace offering for the Judge's disappointment on the 
question of Senator. Wounded by this result I was sufficiently rest- 
less at the dinner table to attract the attention of the Company, who 
very naturally attributed my anxiety to my own affair. While seek- 
ing relief, as men often do under such circumstances, by looking out 
of the window, I saw Hubbard on his way to the Council. The 
sight of him suggested an idea which I put into instant execution. 
Calling Judge Atwater (a brother Senator) from the table to the 
hall, I informed him of the condition of things, and begged him to 
follow Hubbard, who was still in view, and to ask him from me to 
nominate Peter B. Porter for Secretary of State, 1 the moment the 
Council was organized, and to persist in his nomination until he 
had a vote upon it. Atwater returned and reported that he had over- 
taken Hubbard at the Governor's door, and that he had promised to 
do what was requested. I then asked the Judge to go to the Eagle 
Tavern, where Porter had only arrived the evening before, to inform 
him of what had been done, to ask him to accept, and, if he did not, 
as we supposed, desire the place, to hold the office until we could re- 
cover our ground, and obtain the appointment of Young. He did 
so, and Porter readily consented. The Council remained in session 
until midnight, occupied almost every moment of the time with so- 
licitations and remonstrances, addressed to Hubbard by his col- 
leagues, to induce him to withdraw his nomination. When they 
found every attempt of that character unavailing Porter was ap- 
pointed by a unanimous vote. The General had fought gallantly 
in the War, and on his arrival at Albany became the lion of the day. 
Jenkins, on the other hand, had held a lucrative appointment in the 
Commissary Department, without personal exposure to danger. 

I was right in supposing that the Council would not venture 
to reject Porter, under such circumstances, in favor of Jenkins. 
The appointment was, of course, a surprise upon every body, and 

* In place of Jacob Ratten Van Renaselaer, removed. — W. C. F. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY 07 MABTIK YAK BUREN. 71 

a source of deep mortification to Judge Spencer. The appointment 
of Jenkins under existing circumstances was an affair he had an- 
ticipated with delight and exultation, the expression of which would 
have speedily followed the action of the Council. Governor Tomp- 
kins was in favor of Young, and told me afterwards that he had 
heard from one of the members what had been agreed upon at the 
informal meeting and was much mortified by it He said that at 
that moment he was called out to receive Gen. Strong, of Vermont, 
who had served with distinction in the War, and that he detained 
his visitor longer than he would otherwise have done to gain time 
for reflection, in the hope of being able to devise some scheme to 
save Young; but he returned to the Council without a plan, when 
Hubbard's motion presented him with a way to escape. Porter 
held the office for a year, and resigned it whilst I was detained at 
Hudson by sickness in my family, when Young was again dis- 
appointed thro' influences of which I need not speak. 

The Governor deferred giving his casting vote upon the appoint- 
ment of Attorney General until another day, when he promised to 
give it at his office in the Capitol. When that day arrived, Judge 
Woodworth and myself were invited to dine with his brother-in- 
law, the Patroon ; and Woodworth came late to dinner, having waited 
to ascertain the result of the Governor's action. When he came in 
Gen. Van Rensselaer, who knew in advance, asked him provokingly 
who was Attorney General; a question that he was obviously not 
happy to answer. 1 

Peter B. Porter was a man of prepossessing personal appearance, 
good address and fine mind. He was fortunate and, in no inconsider- 
able degree, successful as well in the field as in our national Coun- 
cils during the War, and yet he was at no time popular with the 
masses. The reason was a general conviction that the acquisition 
of wealth was his master passion, to which every other was made 

1 Mr. Van Vechten was, of course, removed from the office of attorney general, and 
Mr. Van Buren was appointed his successor. Thin appointment was made, by the casting 
vote of the governor. Mr. Elmendorff and Mr. Dayton voted for Mr. Van Buren, and 
Messrs. Stranahan and Hubbard for Mr. John Woodworth. The circumstance is too 
trifling to deserve notice, except as an evidence of a jealous feeling which then began to 
exist between Judge Spencer and Mr. Van Buren. I do not Impute the vote of Hubbard 
to the influence of Judge Spencer. Mr. H. was from Troy, and Judge Woodworth had 
many and powerful friends in that place, and in Mr. Hubbard's district. This accounts 
well enough for the vote of Mr. Hubbard. But Stranahan had no personal partialities 
nor any influential friends, in his district, in favor of Woodworth ; on the contrary, they 
were for Van Buren. The truth is, Stranahan, at that period of his political life, was 
much if not entirely, devoted to the views of Judge Spencer. I apprehend that Judge 
Spencer perceived that Mr. Van Buren was acquiring a greater influence in the State 
than the judge desired he should possess, and, therefore, persuaded Mr. Stranahan to 
endeavor to defeat his appointment. From this period, down to 1817, when Mr. Clinton 
was nominated for governor, Mr. Van Buren and Judge Spencer, though both of them 
acting with the Republican party, and in good faith too, were very much inclined to 
thwart the individual views of each other." Hammond, History of Political Parties In 
the State of New York, I, 392.— W. C. P. 



72 AMERICAN" HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

subsidiary. A partial illustration of this trait was exhibited in a 
transaction with which I was connected. Whilst we were holding 
the respective offices of Secretary of State and Attorney General, he 
proposed to me to unite with him in the purchase of an outstanding 
Class Bight with a view to its location on Goat Island, at the head 
of the Niagara falls. I assented, and advanced him half the* con- 
sideration money. The location was made, and no opposition or 
objection was raised to the completion of the title. But when it was 
found necessary to have the proceedings confirmed by the Commis- 
sioners of the Land Office, of which Board we were members, the 
objection to our being parties to any speculation that required such 
a step presented itself to my mind. I stated it to him and he laughed 
at ° what he called my fastidiousness, at the same time saying that 
if I persisted in it he would be too happy to return me my money — 
about a thousand dollars — and to take the whole purchase himself. 
I did persist, and he made a very considerable fortune out of the 
transaction. 

Judge Spencer's feelings were somewhat soothed by his success in 
obtaining the removal of DeWitt Clinton from the office of Mayor of 
New York. Mr. Hammond * is right in assuming that I took no part 
in that matter. My friend Mr. Elmendorff could not have been in- 
duced to vote for it by any other consideration than his desire to save 
the Governor from the necessity of giving the casting vote — other- 
wise unavoidable, as Hubbard could not be brought to vote for the 
removal. 

Mr. Clinton retired to his place at Flushing, to which he had often 
been sentenced in advance by Judge Spencer during their quarrel. 
Here he rusticated for two years, when strange to say he was recalled 
to public life mainly thro' the instrumentality of his imperious 
brother-in-law. 

Mr. Elmendorff was always an anti-Federal politician without 
variableness or the shadow of turning, and an old school Dutchman, 
immovable, obstinate and imperturbably good natured. He was a 
member of Congress as far back as the days of William Cobbet in the 
United States, and received from that caustic censor the sobriquet of 
" The bird of wisdom." 

The opening of the session of 1816 was marked by one of those 
occurrences that shew the facility with which men acting as a body, 
are led to confound power with right, and to do things that in their 
individual capacity they would regard as disgraceful. Experience 
has demonstrated that whenever distinterested justice is obtained 
from one Community — whether a great nation or a petty municipal- 
ity — in behalf of another, it is due to the individuality and conse- 

• MS. I, p. 95. » Political HUrtory of New York, I, 397.— W. C. F. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN VAN BTJREN. 78 

quent responsibility of those who act for it ; the substitution of mo- 
tives of selfish advantage for those of fairness and right is the char- 
acteristic of souless corporations of all kinds, and political parties 
are very liable to become similarly demoralized. 

At the election for members of the House of Assembly in Ontario 
County, Henry Fellows, the federal, was clearly chosen over Peter 
Allen, the republican candidate, if a few votes, in returning which the 
proper officer had abbreviated his name and written " Hen. Fellows ", 
were allowed to him. The Clerk of the County, being a mere ministerial 
officer, gave the certificate of election to Allen, who appeared and 
was qualified, as there was no proper tribunal for the decision of the 
question until the House was organized. The moment that was 
done, Fellows applied to be admitted. That his right would be ulti- 
mately established no one doubted, but the question was whether 
the investigation should take place before or after the choice of the 
Council of Appointment. With Allen's vote we could get the 
Council — if Fellows was first admitted, it would be against us. It 
is difficult to realize the idea that a great party would allow itself 
to take advantage of an accidental circumstance such as I have 
described, to secure to itself a patronage then supposed to amount 
to a million of dollars. But we did it, and there was not the slightest 
dotubt that the other side would have done the same thing if the 
circumstances had been reversed. Fellows was admitted to his seat 
immediately after the choice of the Council, with only one dissenting 
voice. Although not a member of that house I was quite as much to 
blame in the matter as if I had aided the step directly, as I was 
pressed forward by my political associates to take a more active 
part in that body than was proper; so much so that Peter A. Jay, a 
federal leader in the Assembly, of fine talents and great personal 
worth, having occasion in debate to refer to a democratic member 
with whom I happened at the moment to be conversing, and affecting 
to forget his parliamentary designation, exclaimed, "I mean the 
gentleman who always speaks with the Attorney General at his 
elbow !" My then recent insurrection against him would prevent my 
attempting to screen my own delinquency, under the sanction and, 
of course, hearty co-operation of my quondam friend Judge Spencer, 
in the whole affair. The case was in truth one of those abuses of 
power to which parties are subject, but which I am sure I could never 
again be induced to countenance. 1 

I was at this time [1816] re-elected to the State Senate by a large 
majority, notwithstanding a factious opposition in our ranks by 
Judge Spencer's connections — acting however without his approba- 
tion. No one sooner perceived than himself that the political sceptre 

l Thls political Incident ia fully described in Hammond, I, 412. 8ee also Life and 
Correspondence of Rufus King, V, 501. — W. C. P. 



74 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

that he had swayed so long in State affairs was dropping from his 
hand, and finding his power threatened by a body of spirited young 
men on whom his arts of seduction and intimidation had been equally 
tried in vain, he looked about for assistance* With this object he 
turned his attention, as no man but himself would have thought of 
doing, to Mr. Clinton. It was said, and I believe truly, that he con- 
sulted Gen. Armstrong on the point and that the latter remon- 
strated earnestly against the proposed step. I met him on the steamer 
on our way to attend the Term of the Supreme Court at New York, 
shortly after my re-election, when he took me aside immediately 
and assured me that so far from having countenanced the opposition 
of his friends to my election he had done all he could to prevent it. 
I begged him to give himself no uneasiness on the point as my friend 
Chief Justice Thompson had informed me to the same effect during 
the canvass, and I was very certain besides that he was wholly in- 
capable of such conduct. He then proceeded to remark upon the 
happy results of the election throughout the State, and the uses we 
ought to make of our success; spoke of healing wounds and the im- 
portance and advantage of an harmonious party. Having had an 
inkling of what was in the wind I could, without difficulty, place 
the true construction on such unusual observations from him. I 
replied therefore that no one knew better than himself how well such 
sentiments corresponded with my own, and that he might safely 
count on my co-operation in all measures directed to that end, pro- 
vided that they did not lead to such abrupt changes in our conduct 
and opinions, without a corresponding change in circumstances, as 
might impair the confidence of the People in our sincerity and cause 
them to believe that we were making a game of politicks, and play- 
ing it to serve our personal purposes. He said, certainly! that 
should be borne in mind, and the subject was dropped, but without 
the slightest idea on his part of abandoning his purpose; that he 
never did, when his mind was once set on a favorite object. We 
lodged at the same house in New York, and the matter alluded to on 
the steamboat furnished the occasion of many early walks together 
on the Battery. Finding that he could not prevail on me to become 
a party to the Movement he contemplated, he one morning halted 
suddenly in our promenade and facing me, exclaimed, with some 
feeling, "Why, You are a strange man! When I wanted to have 
Mr. Clinton removed, you were, in point of fact, opposed to it, and 
now that I want to bring him back you are opposed to that also ! " 
I replied that I was not opposed to Mr. Clinton's restoration to the 
confidence of the party if it was brought about naturally, and facili- 
tated by his own conduct, but that I could neither approve nor co- 
operate in the sudden and unwise way in which he proposed to bring 
it about, which could not fail, I thought, to have the effect I had 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN VAN BTJBEN. 75 

alluded to in our first conversation. We were invited a few days 
after this to dine with Jacob Barker, then a great banker in New 
York, afterwards a lawyer in New Orleans, and everywhere and in 
every situation an extraordinary man, and always my personal friend 
altho' never my co-adjutor. 

From his habitual devotion to Judge Spencer and his ambition to 
take part in such affairs, I was quite sure that this was a movement 
in furtherance of the Judge's project, and that we should meet 
Mr. Clinton at the dinner. On my way to the residence of Mr. 
Barker, in Beekman street, accompanied by Chief Justice Thompson 
and Judge Yates, I asked them whom they expected to meet. They 
mentioned several names, to which I added that of De Witt Clinton. 
" Why, Spencer is to be there ! " exclaimed they, and " that is the 
very reason! 9 ' I responded. I then explained to them what was 
going on, which surprised them greatly. Mr. Clinton was the only 
guest present when we arrived. He had come in from the country, 
and I observed was plainly and rather carelessly dressed. We met 
him and were received by him very kindly. After a few moments 
Judge Spencer made his appearance, which caused some embarrass- 
ment on the part of all present. . Although there was no direct 
recognition between him and Mr. Clinton, neither °any conversa- 
tion at the table between them, addressed to each other, they talked 
at each other through the rest of us in subdued and conciliatory 
terms. They had an interview in the evening of the same day, as I 
have always understood, at the residence of Dr. John A. Graham, 
and were formally reconciled. On the Friday following the Chief 
Justice called on me and informed me that, as the Court were to 
adjourn on Saturday, Judge Spencer had taken leave of his brethren 
and was going to Albany that afternoon. As the Legislature were 
to meet on the succeeding Monday for the choice of Presidential 
Electors we conceived his object and sending my papers to a friend 
by the hand of the Chief Justice, I packed my trunk and met the 
Judge and Mr. Clinton on the steamboat. Their familiar intercourse 
was matter of amazement to the uninitiated. Mr. Clinton left the 
boat at Newburgh, and I believe only made his appearance on it as 
an expedient demonstration preparatory to what was contemplated 
further. Very soon after he had left us Judge Spencer invited me 
to an interview in the small after cabin, when he opened his budget 
He proposed that Chief Justice Thompson and Mr. Clinton should 
be placed on the Electoral Ticket as Electors for the state at large ; 
that I might say which should stand first, and that he would pledge 
himself that Mr. Clinton should vote for Monroe for President and 
for Tompkins for Vice President. When I declined to come into 

•MS. I, p. 100. 



76 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

the arrangement he became much excited, and said that my unwill- 
ingness to confer a mere formal distinction of that character on 
Mr. Clmton betrayed a violence of party feeling that he could not 
have expected from me. I replied, without recriminations, that he 
misunderstood my motives; that if there were no ulterior purpose, 
I would not object 4x> the choice of Mr. Clinton as he proposed, but 
that I believed it was his intention to bring Mr. Clinton forward as 
the candidate for Governor, to supply the vacancy that was expected 
to arise from the election of Gov. Tompkins to the Vice Presidency ; 
and that as I would be opposed to that step he would think me 
weak indeed if I were to consent to a preliminary arrangement 
designed to promote it. 1 

Of course, if he had no such intention my course would be different. 
He was too truthful to deny this, and immediately turned the con- 
versation upon the main question. He asked me, with his peculiarly 
emphatic manner, why I opposed the nomination of Mr. Clinton, 

*" I understand that our Mr. Clinton has failed in the project, which he had formed of 
being one of the Electors of this State. He was at Albany, and with a view of reconciling 
himself to his old Friends and Party, as well as to advance a step in the accomplishment 
of his desire to succeed Tompkins as Governor, he made exertions to be put at the head 
of the Electoral Ticket ; but on a vote in caucus failed by a large majority against him." 
Rufus King to Christopher Gore, 22 November, 1816. Life and Correspondence of Bufua 
King, vi, 36. 

The short session of the Legislature in the fall of 1816 had shown the Republicans to 
be divided between the Clinton lane, of whom Judge Spencer was the recognised leader, and 
the followers of Tompkins and Van Buren, of whom James Emott said that they were 
" professing to be the true republican party, willing to support caucus nominations and to 
do all the things necessary to promote the views of the holy father [Monroe] at Washing- 
ton, but in fact led by Van Buren and a few young men who mean to make the adminis- 
tration at Washington as well as the good people of thlB State, subservient to their 
particular views, which are in part ambitious but in main interested." It was with the 
Idea of breaking the growing influence of Tompkins and Van Buren that Judge Spencer 
favored the advancement of Clinton and became reconciled to him. It was said .that 
Clinton had given a pledge to vote for Monroe and Tompkins if his name were placed first 
on the electoral ticket. Seeing that such a concession would give the Impression that 
Clinton had become firmly reconciled to the party and was pledged to support all its 
views and principles, Van Buren opposed it, and succeeded in defeating it. The Clin- 
tonlans cried out that they had been " outmanaged," while their opponents boasted their 
superior strength and talent. 

By removing Tompkins to the Vice Presidency the chair of the governor must be filled. 
Hammond describes the three distinct schemes entertained by Van Buren for defeating the 
project of making Clinton governor: 1. That Tompkins should hold both offices and be 
Governor of New York as well as Vice President ; 2, that the Lieutenant Governor should 
act until the regular gubernatorial election of 1810, a plan opposed by the Clintonians, 
who claimed that the Lieutenant Governor could act only until the next " annual " elec- 
tion ; and 3, to obtain a majority in the legislative caucus and nominate an opponent to 
Clinton. After the resignation of Tompkins, which occurred a few days before March 4, 
1817. a measure passed the Legislature providing for the election of a successor, and Van 
Buren voted in Its favor. It was thought to have been adopted "not so much to satisfy 
the terms and intent of the Constitution as the whims and expectations of the people.'* 
The question of succession was practically determined when the Clinton men obtained con- 
trol of the Council, February 13, 1817. Walter Bowne, John Noyes, John I. Prendergast 
and Henry Bloom formed the new Council, and only Bowne was opposed to Clinton. 
Hammond says " This was a great point gained, and It seems to me Mr. Van Buren and 
Gov. Tompkins, If they possessed the power, should have prevented this. Whether they 
made any systematic effort to do so, I am not advised/* Van Buren attributes the loss of 
the Council to the " inaction ** of Governor Tompkins. — W. C. F. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN VAN BURRN. 77 

and, after several earnest and impressive remarks, said he would be 
responsible for Mr. Clinton's good conduct towards me and my 
friends. I replied with a like proffer of responsibility in favor of 
Chief Justice Thompson, whom we then thought of nominating, on 
which Judge .Spencer contracted his brow, rapped his snuff-box, as 
he was wont to do when highly excited, and exclaimed " There, Sir, 
you have touched a cord that vibrates to my heart 1 I was not 
ignorant that I expose my conduct to unfavorable criticism by my 
sudden reconciliation with Mr. Clinton, so soon after our violent 
quarrel and the many severe things I have said of him, and I am 
not sure that I could have brought my mind to that point had I not 
known that it was your intention to bring that man forward, against 
whom I have cause for resentment that neither time nor circum- 
stances can appease ! " I knew very well, without farther explana- 
tion, what he referred to. 

The discussion between the Judge and myself terminated amicably 
but fruitlessly. On our approach to Albany he resumed the sub- 
ject, spoke of his certain success with the Legislature, of the sure 
restoration of Mr. Clinton to power, ultimately, of his kind feelings 
towards me, of my age and prospects, and of the influence upon my 
future success of my course on this occasion. He continued these 
remarks until the moment 6t parting. 

We met several times at the rooms of the Members, but had too 
much self respect to indulge in disputations on the subject in their 
presence. One or the other always retired, and left the field to his 
opponent, and we never had any difficulty in deciding whose turn 
it was to do so. A few hours before the Caucus he told me that they 
would certainly have a majority of twenty; and I asked him whether 
he would do us the honor to visit the Senate Chamber when we ap- 
pointed the Electors, which was to be done on the next day. He 
leplied " Certainly ! " I had no doubt that he had received promises 
from several, who, tho' in their hearts for Mr. Clinton, were not yet 
prepared to support him openly. 

As soon as the Caucus was organized I submitted two propositions: 
one, that the Members from each Congressional District should name 
the Elector for their district, and another that the two Electors for 
the State at large should be selected — one from the Southern and the 
other from the Western District. The first was the usual mode, and 
to the second there was no objection, as both Mr. Clinton and our 
candidate, Col. Rutgers, resided in the Southern District. They 
therefore both passed with perfect unanimity. As soon as' the mem- 
bers had made and reported their district selections, I moved 
promptly that the two Electors from the State at large should be 
designated in the same way — the one by the members from the South- 



78 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION". 

em District, and the other by the members from the West. As £he 
members from the Southern district were nearly unanimous against 
Mr. Clinton, this proposition produced a perfect ferment in the 
meeting. The Clintonian leaders sprang to their feet, and contended 
with each other for precedence in denouncing the proposition, which 
they characterized by all sorts of hard names. They said that it was 
aimed at Mr. Clinton — as if it could have had any other aim — that 
it was unusual and unfair. A motion was made to amend it, so as 
to provide for a vote for the two Electors by ballot. Speech after 
speech followed on their side — our friends naturally waiting for mo 
to defend my own proposition, and I to let the storm spend itself. 

At the first pause I demanded the attention of the meeting as the 
mover of the resolution, which I ought, in common courtesy, to have 
been permitted to explain before it was so grossly assailed. The lead- 
ers of the opposition finding that they had been too hasty, more read- 
ily acquiesced in giving me a fair hearing. I then stated my object to 
be to bring the question of Mr. Clinton's appointment to a test by the 
viva-voce vote of the meeting ; that everybody knew that if my reso- 
lution was adopted he would be excluded — those who were for his 
exclusion voting for the resolution and those who were in favor of 
his appointment voting against it; that in ordinary cases there 
might be no great objection to a vote by ballot, although it was always 
preferable that those who represented others should vote openly, and 
in this case there were circumstances that made the obligation to vote 
openly imperative. No one could doubt that when we were elected 
large majorities of our respective constituencies were decidedly 
against Mr. Clinton, and the proposition to give him the proposed 
proof of the restored confidence of the party was an affair of yester- 
day — brought forward without consulting the People or the possibil- 
ity of consulting them. I was bound to presume, from the well 
known sentiments of our constituents, that the result of our vote 
would be the same whether we voted by ballot, or viva voce and in 
either case against Mr. Clinton, but if it should happen to turn out 
otherwise, there would, of necessity, be great excitements in the 
State — thousands would think that a March had been stolen on the 
party — there would of course be a desire to know who had done it — 
suspicion would be spread over the State, and the meeting owed it to 
itself to save each member from the consequences of the acts of 
others, which could only be done by an open vote on the resolution. 
If a majority of the Meeting were in favor of appointing Mr. Clin- 
ton, and should say so in an open and manly way, I would cheerfully 
submit to the decision, but no right-minded man could, upon reflec- 
tion, desire such a result without being at the same time willing to 
bear the responsibility of it. After pressing these and similar con- 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MABTIN VAN BUREN. 79 

siderations upon the meeting I resumed my seat, and after a few short 
speeches on the other side, the names of the members were called, and 
the resolution was adopted by a majority of nineteen, and our Elec- 
tors were appointed. 

Judge Spencer did not keep his promise to come to the Senate 
the next day, but appeared on the day after jaded and dispirited. 
He had not, however, the slightest idea of giving up the contest, 
but complained bitterly of the feeble manner in which their cause 
had been sustained in thcT Caucus, although he said that while they 
submitted to their present defeat, they would contest the nomina- 
tion ° for Governor in the same way next winter and that he trusted 
that we would also acquiesce if they succeeded, to which I readily 
agreed. 

Legislative caucuses were then, as has been shown, the regular 
mode of nomination, but, feeling doubtful of their success, the Clin- 
tonians commenced, at an early day, to elect delegates from the 
Counties represented in the Legislature by federalists, intending 
to claim seats for them in the nominating Convention. 1 We fol- 
lowed their example, but in those contests they had one advantage 
over us that we could neither prevent nor, in general, resist. The 
federalists, except a small section called "the high minded" (who 
brought but little aid from the masses) were favorable to Mr. Clin- 
ton. Having lost all confidence in their own success, and feeling 
assured that Mr. Clinton must ultimately come over to them, in 
addition to their indirect assistance of his Cause, which we felt 
everywhere, they sent to our Convention obscure men of their own 
who had no distinctive political character. In this way we were 
defeated in a large majority of the federal counties. They also 
obtained a preponderating influence, when the Legislature met, tho' 
not an absolute control, over the new Council of Appointment, in 
consequence of the inaction of Governor Tompkins, arising from 
his situation as a candidate for the Vice Presidency, and in a short 
time they obtained a complete ascendancy in respect to all new ap- 
pointments. 

Several meetings were held to establish regulations for the organi- 
zation of the nominating convention, and notwithstanding the masa 
of influence that was brought to bear against us, the Clintonians had 
not yet obtained a majority of the Legislative Members. We resisted 
the admission of delegates not members of either House on the 
ground of precedent, and of the charge of federal interference, in 

• MS. I, p. 105. 

»8ee Hammond, History of Political Parties In the State of New York, I, 437.-— 



80 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION*. 

regard to which we fortified ourselves with well authenticated facts. 1 
After a protracted debate at one of these preliminary meetings, with 
the reluctant assent of our friends, I proposed to abandon the elec- 
tions that had been made, and to elect the delegates anew on the same 
day in each county, at a time to be fixed, and in case of such an 
arrangement being agreed to, to consent to their admission. This 
reasonable offer was violently opposed, and motion after motion made 
for an adjournment, which we were able to vote down. At mid- 
night, Judge [Moak?] Swart, the Chairman, a family connection of 
mine, and a very upright man, but one of the Congressional pro- 
testers against the nomination of Mr. Monroe, and every inch a Clin- 
tonian, decided that the motion to adjourn was carried. Upon being 
asked to state the vote on the motion, he replied, with great sim- 
plicity, " Fifty odd to forty odd ! " As this was rather too indefinite 
to be satisfactory, we demanded that the names of the members 
should be called and the vote taken more exactly. This was done and 
the result declared to be a tie. We finally consented to .an adjourn- 
ment. At the next meeting our proposition was accepted. The dele- 
gates were again elected, and as Mr. Clinton had undoubtedly made 
some favourable advance in public opinion, and tl\e same influences 
were again applied, the election resulted as before. My own, the 
adjoining county and the small county of Broome were the only 
federal counties in the State that returned anti-Clintonian delegates. 
Then ensued one of those stampedes that sometimes occur in all 
political associations; men running from a defeated party like rats 
from a falling house. A number of instances, some amusing and some 
distressing, were presented of individuals, once ranking among the 
firmest, now abandoning us under various but generally flimsy pre- 
tences. With both wind and tide in his favor and the Council of 
Appointment, that most formidable element of political strength 
in those days, to a very great extent under his control, Judge Spen- 
cer soon made a " practicable breach " in our Legislative defences. 
After much difficulty we had settled down upon Judge Yates, with 
his knowledge and virtual consent, as our Candidate, and his brother 
Spencer immediately set himself at work to induce or force Yates to 
decline, and succeeded. Only a few days before the Convention the 
latter invited me to his room, and told me that he must decline. He 
was apparently entering upon explanations more or less elaborate, 
when feeling indignant as well as grieved by his conduct but with- 
out asperity of manner, I said to him that itj was unnecessary to 
give himself that trouble, as we had prepared ourselves for the 

*The real point was whether the counties which were represented by Federalists in 
the Legislature should send delegates to the nominating convention. By resisting the 
admission of delegates " not members of either House " those Federalist counties wouUJ 
be without representation, and the Clinton support decreased. — W. C. F. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN VAN BUREN. 81 

contingency, and would not be embarrassed by his declension. I 
then shewed him a letter from a friend of Gen. Peter B. Porter, 
giving his assent to be our candidate, if we desired it, and left him. 
I had before this communicated my apprehension on the point of 
Yates' firmness to Chief Justice Thompson, who scouted the idea. 
At our separate caucus a Senator from the Southern district, Mr. 
Crosby, with whom opposition to Mr. Clinton was an absorbing 
passion, presented his venerable and imposing figure to the meet- 
ing, and expressed a desire to ask a few questions of Mr. Van 
Buren, if he had no objections to answer them. On receiving a 
satisfactory assurance he asked for my opinion of the probable 
result of the approaching Convention. I gave him my impression 
in regard to our numbers, and my reasons for fearing that these 
would, under the circumstances, be diminished rather than in- 
creased, and that consequently we must be defeated. This, he said, 
was his own opinion, and he then desired to know whether in such 
an event I was willing to retire, with others similarly disposed, and 
to put Gen. Porter in nomination. I answered promply and de- 
cidedly, " No ! " and after stating the part that we had taken in get- 
ting up the convention, and our consequent obligation to acquiesce 
in the result, added that if we could be found capable of opposing 
its decision for no other reason than because we found ourselves in 
a minority, our bad faith would reducei us from our present ele- 
vated position as the main body, justly so regarded, of the Repub- 
lican party of the State, to that of a faction, like the Burrites and 
Lewisites, which struggled for short seasons and then disappeared 
from the stage ; but that if, on the other hand, we calmly pursued 
a steady and consistent course — upholding the time honored usages 
of the party and submitting to all that was done under them, until 
wc could regain the ascendancy in the usual way — and if Mr. 
Clinton should, notwithstanding, subject his administration to 
federal influences, as we all supposed he would, and as I thought 
he would not be able to avoid doing even if he were so disposed, 
we would soon have the power to overthrow it, and to re-establish 
the Republican party upon its ancient foundations. These views, I 
added, were founded upon the assumption that the convention would 
be organized with tolerable firmness, but if the majority committed, 
in its organization, some act of violence, some palpable Outrage that 
would be apparent to all, I would consider the binding character 
of their proceedings destroyed, and would in that case, and only in 
that case, unite with those who might be so disposed, retire from 
the Convention, and appeal to the People thro' the nomination of 
Gen. Porter. Mr. Crosby then asked me to specify what I would 
regard as a proceeding authorizing the step he had proposed. I 
127483°— vol 2—20 6 



82 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

answered that there were several cases of disputed seats in the 
Convention, all of which, except one, might, I thought, be decided 
against us without furnishing a ground of complaint of the char- 
acter required. The exception was that of the Dutchess County 
delegation. There were serious objections to the regularity of the 
choice of our delegates, but for the admission of the Clintonian 
delegates there was no ground or pretence whatever. If the con- 
vention rejected our delegates and admitted the others I would 
be ready for opposition. Mr. Crosby, who religiously believed that 
there was nothing the Clintonian majority would not do to obtain 
power, declared himself entirely satisfied, and our caucus dissolved. 1 

In deciding on the representation from Dutchess the Convention 
took up first the case of our delegates and rejected them. It then 
proceeded to consider the claims of the Clintonian delegation, and 
the leading members from the Federal counties, such as Gideon 
Granger, John Woodworth, and Nathan Williams, made animated 
speeches in favor of their admission. 

Our friends generally, and I among the rest, deeming the de- 
cision certain, took up our hats to repair to the Senate Chamber to 
nominate Porter, but the affair was destined to a different denoue- 
ment. Perley Keyes, a Senator on our side, and, tho' a plain farmer, 
a man of very rare sagacity, and Dr. Sargeant, long a distinguished 
Republican member, a sincere man, but drawn by special circum- 
stances into the Clintonian ranks where he had become a leader, 
lodged at the same hotel. After the separate caucuses, which had 
both been held with closed doors, broke up, Senator Keyes invited 
the Doctor to a friendly consultation, and communicated to him 
confidentially what we had decided to do, and the latter agreed to 
exert all his power to prevent a rupture in the party by rejecting 
both sets of delegates from the county of Dutchess. I saw them 
together several times behind the Speaker's chair, during the debate, 
but had no idea of the subject of their conversation ; Keys, it after- 
wards appeared, having sought these interviews to strengthen the 
Doctor's nerves under the violent outpourings that came from his 
side. Dr. Sargent waited until the debate was drawing to a close, 
when he made, as he was very capable of doing, an able and effective 
speech against the admission of their delegates, dwelling mainly on 
the probability that their admission might break up the convention, 
and the folly of thus endangering the cause, when they had a 
sufficient majority of undisputed votes. Not one of the newly elected 
delegates voted with him, but he carried a sufficient number of those 

1 The convention was ehld at the Capitol 25 March, 1817. ° MS. I, p. 110. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN VAN BTJREN. 83 

who belonged to his party in the Legislature to carry the question. 
The next morning the principal part of the New York delegation, 
including a man of so much moderation as John T. Irving, called 
on me and insisted, without assigning any new reasons, that I 
should still unite with them in nominating an opposing candidate. 
The reception that I gave to this application offended them, and my 
political candle was thus lighted at both ends. Mr. Clinton was 
nominated and elected by an immense majority. 



CHAPTER VI. 

The Year 1817 was distinguished by the first and settled commit- 
ment of the State to the Canal policy that has since been prosecuted 
with such signal success. It is not to be denied that a large majority 
of the prominent men of the political party to which I belonged were 
very decidedly opposed to this policy. They regarded it, with few 
exceptions, as impracticable, and as brought forward principally 
thro' the influence of Mr. Clinton, at the most depressed period of 
his political career, with views rather to his own than to the interest 
of the State. As to the first objection there was room doubtless for 
an honest difference of opinion, but it must also be admitted that 
their prejudice against Mr. Clinton, personal and political, in some 
degree disqualified them from forming a safe opinion upon the sub- 
ject. I did not in the least doubt that Mr. Clinton hoped to advance 
his political interests by the agitation of the question, but I could 
not concur with my friends in finding in that conviction sufficient 
ground for opposing the measure itself, if its prosecution should ap- 
pear to me practicable and beneficial to the State. A Bill authoriz- 
ing the commencement of the Erie Canal passed the House of Assem- 
bly at the previous session and came to the Senate near the close of it. 
The necessary information not having in my opinion been obtained 
to justify its passage I moved, successfully, that all the clauses of 
the Bill that authorized the commencement of the work should be 
stricken out, leaving only the section making an appropriation for 
further surveys and estimates. Mr. Loomis, a Western Senator, and 
friend of Mr. Clinton, but moderate in his politics, and an ardent 
advocate of the Canal, on its own merits, admitted that the views I 
had expressed in support of my motion were entirely correct. I be- 
lieve that he voted with us, but am certain that he was content with 
the result, and I well remember the satisfaction he expressed that I 
had not fallen into the error so prevalent in both parties — that of 
looking upon the measure with eyes chiefly directed to its political 
bearings. 

When the Bill was before us at the next session the necessary 
information had been obtained, and Judge Hammond (in his Politi- 
cal History) does me simple justice in the credit he concedes to me 
for the influence I exerted to secure its passage. 1 My brother-in-law, 

1 Tbls measure was adopted In the Tlouse by a vote of 64 to 36, the majority being 
composed mainly of the followers of Clinton and some Federalists. In the Senate the 
bill received 18 votes In its favor, and in opposition. " There were five senators who 
were zealous anti-Cllntonians who voted for the bill. Perhaps it Is not too much to 
say, that this result was produced by the efficient and able efforts of Mr. Van Buren, 
who was an early friend of the measure." Hammond, History of Political Parties In 
the State of New York, I, 441.— W, C. F, 

84 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN VAN BUREN. 85 

Senator Cantine, a very ardent politician, and a pure man in public 
and in private life, supported it earnestly. I believe our adverse 
votes would have caused its failure, but am quite certain that we 
could, if so inclined, have defeated it with the greatest ease. I made 
an elaborate speech in its favor, of which a report was attempted but 
acknowledged by its author Col. Stone, 1 (a life long political oppo- 
nent) to be very imperfect — for which he assigned complimentary 
reasons, saying that he had found it difficult to report me generally 
from the rapidity and animation with which I spoke, and that on 
this occasion he was led to abandon the attempt by the great interest 
he felt in the speech, and his gratification at its character. 

I perhaps pressed the subject with greater earnestness because a 
large majority of my political friends differed from me, and some 
blamed my course. Mr. Clinton was in the Senate Chamber, and 
listened very attentively throughout, and altho' it was only a few 
weeks after he had obtained the nomination for Governor, which I 
had so zealously opposed, and our personal intercourse was very 
reserved, he approached me, when I took my seat, shook hands with 
me, and expressed his gratification in the strongest terms. From 
that period to the end of my employment in the service of the State, 
I supported with fidelity and zeal every measure calculated to ad- 
vance its Canal policy, and opposed as zealously, every attempt to 
prostitute that great interest to party purposes. 

My shrewd friend, Senator Keyes, who was opposed to the Bill, 
informed me that he intended to offer an amendment providing for 
a branch canal from the main trunk to Oswego, in which place I 
was largely interested, and that the success of the amendment must 
depend upon my vote. I remonstrated with him on the unkindness 
of his course in seeking to connect my action upon so important a 
subject with my private interest, but told him that I should assuredly 
vote against the amendment on that ground, if there was no other. 
He notwithstanding offered it; I voted against it, and it was de- 
feated. The construction of that branch many years afterwards 
proved of great advantage to the interests both of Oswego and of 
the State. 

After the signal triumph of Judge Spencer in forcing the nomi- 
nation of Mr. Clinton upon the party I did. not much regret the 
necessity that presented itself to encounter him again at this session 
in one of those political skirmishes for which his passion was in- 
nate and insatiable, and in which, if I often succeeded, it was be- 
cause I consulted my judgement more and my temper less, and be- 
cause I took greater care to be right. In consequence of our respect- 

1 William L. Stone, conductor of the Albany Daily Advertiser, a leading federal news- 
paper, and later editor of the Commercial Advertiser of New York City. — W. C. P. 



86 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

able force in numbers and the preponderance of talent in our Sena- 
torial ranks, conceded by Judge Hammond in his Political His- 
tory, 1 at the time of Mr. Clinton's election, we were not long in se- 
curing a majority in that body, which, tho' generally willing to sup- 
port such of Mr. Clinton's measures as were not in themselves ob- 
jectionable, could not be regarded as politically friendly to him. If 
matters were left to their natural course it was not likely that his 
friends could improve his condition in this respect, and it was 
not strange therefore that an administration that owed its existence 
to extraneous means, should find itself compelled to resort to sim- 
ilar appliances for its support. A case for this sort of interference 
was presented in this its first year. 

The seats of Mr. [William] Ross, of Orange County, a Clintonian, 
and of my friend Mr. Cantine, of Greene, became vacant and were 
to be filled at the next election. The particular counties in each 
District from which candidates for Senatorial vacancies should be 
taken were then designated at the seat of Government by the repre- 
sentatives of the District in both branches of the Legislature. The 
counties already named were fairly entitled to be, and would, under 
ordinary circumstances, have been selected, but such a result would 
have left things precisely as they stood, the one being favorable 
and the other adverse to Mr. Clinton. A project was therefore 
started by Judge Spencer to give to the county of Otsego, already 
represented by Judge Hammond, a Clintonian, another Senator, to 
the exclusion of Greene, on the pretence that by a critical examina- 
tion of the relative population of the counties composing the Dis- 
trict, Otsego was better entitled to two Senators than Greene to one. 
On my way to the meeting of the representatives of the District at 
the Capitol, I was confidentially informed by a personal friend who 
generally acted with the Clintonians, that there had been private 
meetings of the members on that side, attended by Judge Spencer, 
in which it was agreed to give the vacancies to Orange and Otsego. 
I met Mr. Ross, at the door of the Senate, in the act of leaving the 
place of our meeting, called him aside, and denounced in strong 
terms the intrigue of which I had just been informed. He said he 
had nothing to do with the affair. I told him that could not well 

1 " Mr. Van Buren, of course, felt a deep Interest in the choice of the council of appoint- 
ment. His object would not be accomplished if men were placed in the council, a major. 
Ity of whom were decidedly hostile to the governor. In that case the public would lm_ 
pute all the errors which might be committed, to the council, and judge of the executive 
by his speeches. Nor was he willing that Mr. Clinton should have a council which 
would accord with him in all his views, and be subservient to his wishes. It would, he 
thought, be more desirable to form a council which the governor could not control, but 
for whose acts the public would hold him responsible. In other words, Mr. Van Buren 
wished to create a council which should be nominally Clintonian, but which, at the 
same time, should be really hostile to the governor. Partly by management, and partly 
by accident, a council of the character last described, was actually chosen." Hammond, 
History of Political Parties in the State of New York, I, 457.— W. C. F. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN VAN BUREN. 87 

be reconciled with the fact that some of the meetings had been held 
in his room ; that if the perpetration of this outrage was persevered 
in we would not support him, and that he knew us well enough 
to judge whether we would keep our word. He showed confusion 
and alarm. Our meeting was soon after organized by placing Gen. 
Belknap of Orange in the Chair — a warm friend of Mr. Clinton and 
a very upright man. Judge Hammond, who was the leader on the 
Clintonian side, and whom, judging from the candour and integrity 
exhibited in his History of the times, it must have caused Judge 
Spencer some labour to bring into the support of the contemplated 
arrangement, moved that one of the Senatorial candidates should be 
taken from Orange, in regard to which there was no dispute. I 
moved to amend by adding Greene for the other, so that the question 
should be taken on both vacancies at the same time. Judge Ham- 
mond assigned plausible reasons against this course, without ad- 
mitting that there was any opposition to Greene, and without know- 
ing that I had been apprised of their plans. After skirmishing in 
this way long enough to be satisfied that he did not mean to be more 
explicit, I made a full statement of the information I had received, 
challenged a denial of its correctness, and receiving none, de- 
nounced the projected scheme in decorous but severe terms, as a 
proof of a determination to break up the party. Mr. Hammond 
was not, as he says himself, an expert debater, and discomposed by a 
statement of facts, not complimentary to the fairness of those with 
whom he was acting, entered with evident embarrassment upon the 
exhibition of his statistics in regard to the population of the coun- 
ties, and other pretences that had been constructed by the movers 
in the plot. We scouted all his calculations as indicating a chaffer- 
ing disposition inconsistent with that confidence and fraternal feel- 
ing which had in time past characterized the action of the party. 
We affirmed that the treatment of the small counties, that consti- 
tuted nearly half the district, had always been of the most liberal 
character, and that not an instance could be cited in which a double 
representation in the Senate had been given to a large county, as 
long as there was in the district a small county not represented, and 
finally we exclaimed against the propriety of a separate and private 
understanding by a portion of a political brotherhood about to as- 
semble to promote the common cause, pledging itself to a particular 
course without hearing what the rest had to say against it 

Gen. Belknap, the Chairman, very unexpectedly to all, rose from his 
seat, and, tho' no speaker, said in impressive terms that he had at- 
tended the meeting alluded to, and had promised to vote for the 
exclusion of Greene, but that he was now satisfied that he had done 

MS. I, p. 115. 



88 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

wrong, and that he would vote for my amendment. Mr. Throop 
from Chenango, who had been a clerk in my office, but was a zealous 
Clintonian, next made an elaborate explanation of his present views 
and his reasons for not voting as he had pledged himself to vote. 
Whilst he was speaking, Hammond turned to me and said, " Would 
you believe it, Sir! That young man has been one of the chief 
Agents in getting up this business ! " When the vote was taken 
my motion to include Greene was carried by a large majority. I was 
detained in the Senate Chamber longer than the rest, and when I 
went out I found a solitary individual, walking to and fro on the 
Capitol Porch, whom in the uncertain light of the hour I did not 
at first recognize, but I soon made him out, by his habit of humming 
over the head of his cane, to be Dr. Davis, one of the Orange county 
representatives. I approached him, and asked him what kept him 
there at that time of night. He answered, with a hearty laugh, that 
he was positively afraid to go home ; that Judge Spencer was wait- 
ing for him at his room, and he did not know how to explain their 
defeat, as they came to the meeting with a pledged vote of two thirds 
in their favor, and had been defeated by about the same number! 
I advised him to tell the Judge that their cause was not an honest one, 
and that was the reason of its failure. 1 

Gov. Clinton's inauguration was quite an imposing affair, as I 
understood, and conducted in excellent taste. Having, contrary to 
my usual course in such cases, agreed, on the suggestion of Judge 
Thompson, not to attend, I did not witness it, and was accordingly 
very much surprised to hear afterwards, that the latter was present, 
with his family, and that my absence had in consequence been more 
noticed than it might otherwise have been. This act, so inconsistent 
with his general conduct, was caused by an influence which in its 
usual and appropriate sphere is generally both benignant and auspi- 
cious, but when exerted in the uncongenial paths of politicks is rarely 
happy and always out of place. Knowing the Chief Justice to be, 

1 This incident of the senatorial election is more fully described by Hammond : 
"Before the middle district convention adjourned, it was resolved to appoint a com- 
mittee to draft an address to the electors of the district, on the subject of the approach- 
ing election. Mr. Van Buren was appointed chairman of that committee. Another 
person agreeing with him in political views, and myself, were of that committee. He 
drew an address, in which he reviewed the political contest between the two parties 
during the late war, and most soundly abused our old political opponents. The poop 
federalists, who were so far from being dangerous, that they had no idea of opposing 
our candidates, be they who they might, very justly might have complained of this treat- 
ment as illiberal, if not cruel. But on the part of Mr. Van Buren, the measure was 
politic and judicious. If the Clintonian republicans refused to sign the address, then 
it was evidence of what was charged against them, — a secret understanding with the 
federalists, — if they signed It, then the federalists might be told, that they had no more 
to expect from one class of the republicans than from another, for both had joined! 
in the uncalled for denunciations against them. The address eventually was signed 
indiscriminately by all the republican members." Hammond, History of Political Parties 
in the State of New York, I, 471.— W. C. P. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN VAN BUREN. 89 

when left to himself a perfectly straight-forward man, I did not, as 
I would have been justifiable in doing, break off my intercourse with 
him, but contented myself with making him sensible of the injustice 
he had done me, without asking or receiving explanations. 

A few evenings afterwards I was visited by Gen. Solomon Van 
Rensselaer, the Adjutant-General, who brought me a message from 
Gov. Clinton to the effect that there was nothing in his feelings 
towards me that would prevent on his part the maintenance of 
friendly relations, and that he sincerely hoped that such would be 
the case ; that he did not of course expect me to support any of his 
measures which I did not approve, but would be happy to find that I 
judged his administration fairly. I reciprocated these friendly assur- 
ances with much cordiality, and requested the General to say to the 
Governor that all I asked of him was such an administration of the 
Government as would satisfy our old political friends that he desired 
to sustain the Republican party of the State, in which event I could 
make myself useful to it, and would take great pleasure in doing so. 
I felt the awkwardness of sending such a response through a high- 
toned federalist, but thought it due as well to the Governor as to 
myself, to make him understand my position correctly. He and 
Judge Spencer might, at that time, by their joint influence, have pre- 
vailed upon two of the four members composing the Council of Ap- 
pointment to consent to my removal from the office of .Attorney Gen- 
eral, and thus might have effected it by his casting vote. By omitting 
to make the attempt between July 1818, when he entered upon 
the duties of his office, and January 1819, when a new Council was 
chosen, he proved the sincerity of his professions made thro' Gen. 
Van Rensselaer. Of the new Council not a single member could 
have been induced to vote for my removal, and by the next — the only 
one in which his friends obtained a majority — I was removed. 1 

At the meeting of the Legislature in 1819 the Rubicon was passed 
by the Clintonians and a speedy separation of the party made cer- 
tain. They decided to support for Speaker of the House of As- 
sembly, Obadiah German, a Senator in Congress during the War, 
and its violent opponent. He was to our friends the most obnoxious 
man in the Clintonian ranks. It had for a series of years been the 
practice of the Republican members to meet in the Senate Chamber, 
and to select, by a majority, the individual to be voted for as 
Speaker, and the choice thus made was always regarded as binding 

l The new council was composed of Yates, Barnum, F. William Rom 

and George Rosencrantz. It waa elected with the aid of Federalist votes, only John 
A. King, Dner and Carman being opposed. These decided not to vote for the Clinto- 
nian council because of the treatment of the senatorial question by Governor Clinton. 
It was supposed that the Governor waa hostile to the re-election of Rufus King, and 
this supposition waa confirmed when Judge Spencer waa put forward as the candidate 
of the governors party. — W. C. F. 



90 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

on the party. Owing, in some degree, to mismanagement, partly to 
the unpopularity of German, and, to a small extent, to the absence 
of members, we obtained a majority in the Caucus, and nominated 
Mr. [William] Thompson, of Seneca, for Speaker. This result 
astounded Mr. Clinton and his friends, who from having ridiculed 
the idea of opposition to German were now filled with consternation. 
Instead of uniting in the choice of Thompson, as they should have 
done (the place not being one of primary importance) they decided 
in the excitement and confusion of the time to elect, and did elect 
German, by a union with the federalists. 1 

The effect was electrical, and from one end of the State to the 
other there was a revulsion of feeling in the minds of Republicans 
inclining them to join hands at the Governor's expence. This gen- 
eral sensation brought to Albany Jacob Barker, of whom I have al- 
ready spoken, and who was always set in active motion by a crisis, 
as had been shown on many occasions during the War. He possessed 
the full confidence of Judge Spencer, and a large share of that of 
the Governor and of his new friend Judge William W. Van Ness. 
Barker confirmed the worst accounts they had received from the 
counties and impressed them strongly with the necessity of taking 
some step that might subdue the excitement, or at least divert the 
public mind from the subject. A vacancy had been produced on the 
Bench of the Supreme Court, and the coup d'etat proposed by Barker 
was that the Governor should nominate me to the Council for the 
Judgeship without enquiring whether I would or would not accept 
it. I have before described the relations that always existed be- 
tween Barker and myself. He came to me, after a full consultation 
with the three gentlemen I have named, and first requiring and ob- 
taining my promise that I would say nothing in regard to my own 
feelings upon the matter he was about to lay before me, proceeded 
to inform me fully of his plan, to which, he said, all the gentlemen 
referred to had assented. His argument was that whether I accepted 
cr not, it would be sufficient to repel the charge of Mr. Clinton's sub- 
serviency to federal influence ; and if I accepted it would remove me 
from a place where I was very troublesome, to one where I could 
exert less political influence. The only difficulty, he told me, arose 
from a promise the Governor had made to appoint Mr. [John] 
Woodworth, but that they thought could be overcome. 

He subsequently described to me an interview between Judge 
Spencer and Woodworth, the object of which was to induce the latter 
to relieve the Governor from his promise, the particulars of which 
were too characteristic of the parties to require, with me, any other 
proof of their authenticity. But Mr. Woodworth stood fast on his 

*A full account of this election is given in Hammond, History of Political Parties in 
the State of New York, I, 477.— W. C. P. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN VAK BUBEN. 91 

bond. The interference of his brother-in-law, Gen. Stephen Van 
Rensselaer was next called into action, but with no better success. 
They were all greatly dissatisfied with this pertinacious selfishness, 
but the Governor, having received a personal favor from him, ful- 
filled his promise and nominated Woodworth. It is probable that 
when the result was found to be inevitable the proposition spoken of 
by Judge Hammond of appointing two additional Judges, and my- 
self as one of them, was proposed by Mr. Barker, and abandoned 
on being opposed ° by Judge Spencer and the Governor. 1 I have 
no idea that either of these gentlemen knew that I had been apprised 
of these circumstances, or that they would have been much dissatis- 
fied with the fact if they had known it. 

The blunder of the administration in regard to the choice of 
Speaker, was, shortly after, followed by an event that served to 
strengthen us greatly. A vacancy occurred in the Board of Canal 
Commissioners, and I was told by a federal member of the House of 
Assembly, opposed to Mr. Clinton, and who subsequently became a 
member of the party known as " the high-minded," that if we would 
bring forward a candidate against Ephriam Hart the Clintonian 
candidate, who was not acceptable to him and his friends, there 
would be found votes enough on the joint-ballot to secure his elec- 
tion. I proposed my friend Henry Seymour, father of the present 
Governor [Horatio Seymour] to whom he at once agreed. On the 
joint-ballot, we, to the surprise and deep regret of the Governor and 
his friends, elected Mr. Seymour by a majority of one vote. 2 This 
gave us a majority in the Canal Board and I am quite confident that 
we derived more advantage from the patronage and influence attached 
to it than the Governor obtained from the Council of Appointment, 
which was embarrassed by the circumstance that it had to minister 
to the cravings of a party composed of discordant materials. 

While things were going on in this way, I one day received, in 
court, a note from Judge Spencer, written on the Bench, saying that 
he desired a private interview that evening, and would meet me either 
at his house, or at mine, or at the residence of his son-in-law. I 
returned an answer before he left the bench that I would come to his 
house in the evening. 

The state of party-feelings at the time may be inferred from the 
fact that we were both sensible that it was necessary to make our 
interview strictly private to prevent its being used by mischevious 
persons to foment jealousies among our friends. He received me 
very kindly at the door, introduced me into his library, and turned 
the key. He soon disclosed his object by expressing a strong desire 

* Ms. I, p. 120. 

1 Hammond, History of Political Parties In the State of New York, I, 490. — W. C. F. 

8 Hammond, History of Political Parties In the State of New York, I, 405.— W. C. F. 



92 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION', 

to have the harrassing distraction in the party healed, and he had 
sought this interview to ascertain whether a candid talk with me 
might not lead, in some unexceptionable way, to the accomplish- 
ment of that result He had not been able to digest any plan of his 
own, and was throughout, what was very unusual with him, em- 
barrassed by his consciousness of the difficulties that surrounded the 
subject. I was pleased to find that the idea of any action on my part 
separated from my political friends, did not, at any time, appear to 
have entered his mind, and I observed to him that while my con- 
victions of the impossibility of carrying his wishes into effect were 
very strong, I need give him no assurances in regard to my personal 
feelings and inclinations, as he had shown his sense of them by ask- 
ing the interview. Among many other things, I urged the difficulty 
of bringing the Republicans on our side, and for whom we claimed 
that they constituted the main body of the party, to unite in the 
support of an Administration by which Judge William W. Van Ness, 
Elisha Williams, and many other prominent federalists were recog- 
nized as political and confidential friends and advisers. I could con- 
ceive of no way in which this objection could be obviated, that the 
Governor would feel himself at liberty to adopt; professions and 
assurances however honestly made, would, in the present state of 
political feeling, pass for very little, and nothing short of an open 
rupture with those gentlemen would inspire even the well-disposed 
on our side with confidence in any arrangement we might adopt 
Mr. Clinton having received two Speakers and a Council of Appoint- 
ment at the hands of those gentlemen could not now shake them 
off to conciliate old friends even if he could bring his own feelings 
to such a step. He admitted the difficulties that beset their path in 
that regard, and felt them the more sensibly as Judge Van Ness, 
whom he once heartily disliked, had by this time conciliated his 
esteem — and Judge Spencer was as sincere in his friendships as he 
was thorough in his aversions. 

After conversing until a late hour we seemed both satisfied that 
nothing effectual could be done to further the object of our con- 
sultation, and were about to part, when he said that there was 
another subject on which he wished to speak, but was embarassed 
as to the manner of introducing it lest he might be misunderstood, 
and give offence where certainly none was intended. He proceeded 
to describe the pressure that had for a long time been made upon 
Mr. Clinton for my removal and the force that these applications 
derived from the circumstance that I was regarded as the leader 
of the opposition to his administration. I interfered at this stage 
of his remarks by begging him to permit me to anticipate what he 
desired to say which as I presumed was that if my opposition was 
continued the Governor would feet himself obliged to consent to 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN VAN BUREN. 93 

my removal. I then observed that as this was not intended as a 
menace, of which I had not the slightest suspicion, and which he 
earnestly disclaimed, I could have no objection to its introduction ; 
that I was not sorry it had been introduced, as I had for some time 
been anxious to be fully understood by the Governor and himself 
upon the point. I said that I had obtained my office from the same 
source from which the Governor had derived his place, and was 
earlier in possession. I sustained him in the leading measure of 
his Administration, — that of Internal Improvements— but it was 
complained that I was taking measures to prevent his re-election. 
This I had a right to do, and I denied that he had any authority 
to use his power, derived as it was, to coerce me into his support. 
But at the same time I admitted that these views, had, by the course 
of events, and conduct of parties, come to be regarded as mere 
abstractions; — that I was by no means certain that I would act 
upon them myself if our cases were reversed ; — that I had for a long 
time regarded the loss of my office, when the Governor obtained the 
power to remove me, as the probable consequence of my persistence 
in the course I felt it my duty to pursue, and that he might rest 
assured that he would hear of no personal complaints from me or 
my friends on account of my removal. 

Judge Spencer acknowledged emphatically the liberality of my 
feelings, and the regret he would experience if matters took the di- 
rection referred to, (in which I did not doubt his sincerity, for not- 
withstanding occasional exhibitions of great violence, he was cap- 
able of generous impulses) — and said, as I rose to leave him that/ 
he was happy we had met, because altho' we had accomplished noth- 
ing upon the main subject, our conversation could not fail to give a 
milder tone to our future differences. 

The session terminated without any change in the posture of polit- 
ical affairs, but also without my removal taking place. In the heat 
of summer I received an order from the Governor to attend the Dela- 
ware Circuit, and to take part in a laborious and difficult trial for 
Murder in Delaware County, and meeting him the next day, at the 
Canal Board, he asked me whether I had received his order. I an- 
swered affirmatively but enquired whether he thought it quite fair 
as matters stood, (alluding to the called meeting of the Council of 
Appointment, and the expectation of my removal during my absence) 
to send me in such weather upon such a service, and proposed to him 
to consent that I should employ Counsel on the spot, at the expense 
of the State. He understood my allusion, and colouring, said, " No I 
Great interest is felt in the case, and the public will be disappointed 
if you do not go!" 

Before the adjournment of the Legislature I said to Gen. German, 
in a jocose way, that his friend the Governor gave the State a great 



94 AMERICAN HISTORICAL. ASSOCIATION*. 

deal of trouble, that his adherents ought to apply to Mr. Monroe to 
send him on some distinguished foreign mission, and that he would 
be strongly tempted to unite in the measure, to which he made some 
reply, in a similar vein. On my return from the Delaware circuit 
I met the General on his way from New York, where the Council 
of Appointment was is session, to his residence in Chenango. He 
left his carriage, came to me and saluted me very cordially. I asked 
him the news — what was the Council about, and has it made a new 
Attorney General? He replied "Not yet? and then referred to 
our former conversation, and said he had felt desirous to see me in 
the hope of being able in some way to arrest the divisions that were 
spreading in the party. I replied by giving to that conversation its 
true character, but adding seriously that if the Governor was will- 
ing to accept a foreign mission, I for one, would be happy to see 
him get it. He said "No, No." — on which I told him at once, but in 
kindness, that for anything else it was too late; that the Governor 
must either put us down, or be put out himself; that as matters 
stood the leading men of both parties would only discredit them- 
selves with tite People by attempting to patch up a truce. "Well," re- 
plied he, "it requires no prophet to tell us which of those results 
will happen" — and we separated. I have always supposed that the 
General had asked them to delay the removal until he could see me, 
and that he wrote to New York from the nearest post-office, after 
our interview, as I received my supersedeas almost immediately 
thereafter. 1 

Chief Justice Thompson, having received the ° appointment of 
Secretary of the Navy, and there being besides strong objections 
to his nomination for Governor on the part of some of our best men, 
we determined, before the Legislature separated, informally, to 
bring forward Vice President Tompkins. All admitted the Chief 
Justice to be honest and sincere but it was thought that he did not 
understand the feeling of the party sufficiently, and might quarrel 
with it before his term of office expired. Although I had been very 
instrumental in giving him the political prominence he possessed, I 

*"In July [1810] the Council met again. Although the removal of minor office hold- 
ing Bucktail8 and the appointment of Cllntonlans had been very general; yet Mr. Van 
Buren, who stood at the head of the opposition to the Governor, and led on the attack, 
had been allowed to hold one of the most important, influential and at that time lucra- 
tive offices in the State, the office of Attorney General, undisturbed. It was urged that 
this inconsistency in the conduct of the administration ought to be obviated ; and after 
much and long hesitation the Council removed him, and appointed Thomas J. Oakley in 
his place . . . Mr. Van Buren, according to the maxim which before had, and since has 
governed his political conduct, had no right to complain, and In fact, I believe, he did 
not ; but an outcry was of course raised in the newspapers, on account of the removal 
of a republican from an important office, and the appointment of a federalist In his 
place." Hammond, History of Political Parties In the State of New York, I, 507. Oakley 
was the Dick Shift >f the Bucktail Bards. — W. C. F. 

* MS. I, p. 125, 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN VAN BUREN. . 95 

came to pretty much the same conclusion — for many reasons, one of 
which I will mention by way of illustration. We went together to 
the Delaware Circuit — in which county Gen. Boot lived and then 
exercised undisputed and indisputable political sway — and on our 
way I expressed a hope to the Chief Justice that he would shut his 
eyes to the General's foibles, and treat him kindly. For a few days 
their intercourse was mutually satisfactory — so much so that the 
latter confessed to me that there were good points about Thompson 
of which he had not before been sensible; but before the Circuit 
closed his prejudices were more than ever aroused and I could not 
even prevail on him to take a respectable leave of the Chief Justice. 
The knowledge of our intention in regard to the Vice President 
was the signal for opposition to the settlement of that portion of 
his accounts for War expenditures that had to be audited by the 
States officers before it could be allowed at Washington. Until 
then all went on smoothly and his accounts would have been with- 
out a doubt, but for that circumstance, satisfactorily settled. He 
soon came to an open rupture with the Comptroller Mclntyre (a 
zealous friend of the Governor) who made an appeal to the public 
in the form of an official letter, signed as Comptroller, and addressed 
to the Vice President 1 I went to the residence of the latter at 
Staten Island, as well to obtain his consent to J)e our candidate, as 
to tender all the aid in my power in preparing an answer to the 
Comptroller's letter, with copies of which the State had been in- 
undated. I soon found that he was strongly impressed with the idea 
that I wanted the nomination myself, and persisted in declining, 
until I alluded in terms to his motive, and gave him assurances of 
his error which he could not but believe, when he consented to our 
wishes. But when we came to the examination of his papers I 
found him, in comparison with what he had been, exceedingly 
helpless. Conscious of his integrity in all things — sensible of the 
great services he had rendered to the country at periods of its ut- 
most need, and of the disinterestedness of his motives, (which had 
been strikingly displayed by his refusal to be drawn from his Post, 
by the temptation of the office of Secretary of State) his feelings 
had not been callous or his resolution strong enough to enable him 
to bear up against the injustice, the ingratitude and the calumny 
of which he was now made the victim. He could not speak on the 
subject of his accounts with composure, or look at Mclntyre's letter 
without loathing. When told of the indispensable necessity of giv- 
ing to those matters prompt and thorough Attention, he said, he 
could not help it, and throwing down a bunch of Keys, exclaimed, 
u There are the keys of my private papers, without reserve — here is 

1 A letter to his Excellency Daniel D. Tompkins, late governor of the State of New 
York. The answer was entitled : A Letter to Archibald Mclntyre, comptroller of the 
State of New York. It ran through two editions. — W. C. F. 



96 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION 

my friend Mr. Leake — he knows a good deal about the papers and 
will cheerfully give you all the aid in his power, and, when you 
want explanations come to me." 

On examining his private letter-book I found a correspondence 
between him and Thomas Addis Emmett containing an offer of 
the office of Attorney General, and its acceptance. I immediately 
went to the garden where he was, with the book in my hand, and 
said to him " Vice President, I find here that you were the author 
of an appointment that I have always attributed to Mr. Clinton," 
and showed him the correspondence. He replied "Certainly, Gov. 
Clinton knew nothing of the matter. I wanted to have Thomas and 
Southwick convicted of the bribery they practiced on the passage 
of the Bill to incorporate the Bank of America, and thought you 
too young for that service; and I knew besides that you would 
come to the office early enough." 

The knowledge of the injustice that I had for so many years 
done to Mr. Clinton in this regard distressed me and made me after- 
wards more cautious how I trusted to mere inferences in important 
matters. There was then an impassable political gulf between us, 
and no suitable opportunity was presented for explanation, but I 
am sure this discovery had its influence on my dispositions towards 
him at another and very critical period of his life. 

In the course of my early interviews with the Vice President I 
imbibed a suspicion that the habit of intemperance, to which he, 
in the end, fell a melancholy victim, had commenced its fatal rav- 
ages upon him. The Secretary of the Navy, (Thompson) whose 
son had married the Vice President's daughter had taken a cottage 
for the summer on the island, but was absent from home when I 
arrived. On his first visit I proposed a walk, and in reply to his 
question as to the condition in which I found the Vice President's 
papers, I answered " So far, very well, but there is another matter 
that has afflicted me more." I then asked him whether it had ever 
occurred to him that our friend was becoming intemperate. He 
paused a moment, and replied, with more feeling than was common 
to his nature, but with his habitual truthfulness, that he could not 
say that the idea had not at times passed thro' his mind, but that 
he had watched him as closely as he could, with propriety, and satis- 
fied himself that his indulgence was temporary, occasioned by his 
troubles, and would soon wear off, I hinted at the fearful respon- 
sibility I was assuming in pressing his nomination if it should 
turn out differently. He concurred very fully in this and said that 
he trusted I knew him too well not to be satisfied that he would 
be the last person to advise me to persevere if he thought there was 
any real danger, and that he would not fail, if my apprehensions 
were realized, to step forward, and share the responsibility with me. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN VAN BURRN. 97 

This relieved my mind, but I prepared, notwithstanding, an anony- 
mous letter to the Vice President which I intended to put in the 
post-office, when I reached the city, but my courage, which was 
never yet equal to such a performance failed, and when I got to 
New York I destroyed it. 

I soon found not only satisfactory but highly creditable explana- 
tions of transactions that figured largely in the Comptroller's letter, 
in the federal presses, and in the pamphlets which the enemies of the 
Vice President had written on the subject of his accounts. When my 
examination was finished and he was delighted with the case he 
was about to present, I was pleased to witness the revival of his 
spirits and, with them, of his adroitness, tact and power. He pro- 
posed to read his Reply first at a private meeting of the most dis- 
tinguished of his personal and political friends — a step of the utility 
of which I became very sensible when I found that these numerous 
gentlemen, after having been thus consulted, identified themselves, 
in some degree, with the document, and were as much interested in 
its success, as they could have been if they had themselves written 
it. My experience on this occasion had its influence in inducing me 
ever afterwards to submit my own papers destined for publication to 
the widest inspection of my friends, with liberal permission to 
suggest improvements, and unaffected dissatisfaction if they failed 
to avail themselves of it. There was one, and only one point on 
which the Vice President and myself differed, and that will show 
the effect that injustice had produced on a mind naturally the most 
disinterested and self-denying, by tempting him contrary to the 
usage of his life, to become the trumpeter of his own glory. I de- 
sired to give the largest share of credit for results that had in fact 
been produced by his individual efforts and sacrifices, to the 
patriotism of the People, but he thought he had acted on that prin- 
ciple long enough, and that the time had arrived when he ought to 
claim what belonged to him. His version of the matter was inserted 
in the letter, with an engagement on his part, to state to the meeting 
our difference of opinion on the point, when he reached it, and to 
abide by their decision. When I looked at the list of persons he had 
prepared to compose the meeting I was amused with the complexion 
of some of its parts, and yet nothing could have been more judicious 
than such a selection. At the door of the place of meeting I met 
Martin S. Wilkins, the Vice President's class-mate and early friend, 
who, altho' an honest man in all respects, was substantially a 
monarchist in his politics. Recognizing him, in the obscure light 
of evening, and notwithstanding my previous knowledge that he 
was to be one of the company, I said, u Mr. Wilkins you have made 
some strange mistake in coming here !" 

127483*— vol 2—20 7 



98 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION*. 

"Not at all," he answered, "is not this the house of Jonathan 
Thompson?" 

"YesI" said I — ''but there is to be a democratic meeting hero 
tonight" (that term having come into use instead of Republican) 
" and I am very sure that you do not go to such gatherings." 

" That is true enough " replied Wilkins, " I don't care a d — n for 
your democracy, but I take an interest in the success of honest men, 
and believe my old schoolmate Daniel D. Tompkins to be one, and 
I come here to-night to be confirmed in that opinion ! " 

The Vice President made some very impressive remarks illustrat- 
ing the truth of the statement upon the expediency of publishing, 
on which he and I had differed — justifying the inferences he had 
drawn, and strengthening the propriety of his position and con- 
cluding with the declaration that the time had arrived when he ought 
to do himself justice. Forming their opinion upon these grounds 
only, there appeared to be a general sentiment in the meeting that I 
was wrong, followed by a remonstrance with me for my opposition. 
In reply I dwelt for a short time on the danger of a man who had 
always 'been so modest in speaking of his own merits changing his 
character in that regard, particularly under his present circum- 
stances, which as they stood were well calculated to excite public 
sympathy; but when I came to describe the uses that Mr. Clinton's 
caustic and busy pen would make of such seeming self adulation, in 
a degree at the expense of the People, and at a moment when we 
were seeking their favor, there was a change of sentiment, except on 
the part of Mr. Wilkins, who contended that this flattering the 

People was all stuff, and that the better way was to tell the truth 

and abide the consequences. The rest advised the Vice President to 
yield for the sake of policy — notwithstanding the truth of what he 
proposed to say — which he did with a good grace. The letter was 
received with the greatest favor, and embarrassed Governor Clinton 
and his friends exceedingly. 

The country was filled with the most exaggerated reports in re- 
gard to the claims preferred against the State by the Vice President. 
I offered a resolution, early in the next session, calling on the Comp- 
troller to report the claims made, whether the accounts had been 
settled according to the provisions of an act passed at the last ses- 
sion, 1 (before it was suspected that he would be a candidate) and if 
not, the reason for the omission. That officer sent in an elaborate 
reply which was referred to our committee. We made a report, 
simple and unvarnished, stating the whole case in a way to be easily 
understood by the People, and accompanied it by a Bill directing the 
Comptroller to pay to the Vice President Eleven Thousand Dollars, 

• MS. I, p. 130. 

1 8esslon Laws of 1810, p. 286. See Hammond, History of Political Parties in the State 
of New York, I, 508.— W. C. F. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MABTTN VAN BUBBN. 99 

as the balance fully due to him from the State. When this Bill was 
before the Senate I made a Speech that was very extensively pub* 
lished and was entirely satisfactory to the friends of the Vice Presi- 
dent 1 Gideon Granger, the Post Master General under Mr. Madi- 
son, who had been elected to the Senate from the Western District, 
was expected to reply, but did not do so, nor was any answer made, 
and the Bill passed the Senate by a vote of two to one. To prevent 
the influence of his silence, it was said and published that Mr. 
Granger had temporarily lost his voice by a severe cold; which was 
partially true, but from the sympathy of which he gave unmistak- 
able signs, whilst listening with respectful and undivided attention 
to the recital of Tompkins' services, persecutions and sufferings, I 
inferred a better reason for his disinclination to speak against him, 
and gave him credit for his forbearance. Mr. Lot, a Member from 
Long Island, and an ardent friend, was so far moved by the same 
cause that he wept like a child and was obliged to leave the chamber. 

The Vice President arrived at Albany from Washington about 
this time, and was received by our friends with wild enthusiasm. A 
meeting * composed of the Democratic members of the Legislature, 
and citizens in great numbers and from all parts of the State, and 
over which I presided, was, a short time afterwards, held at the Capi- 
tol, by which Tompkins was nominated as a Candidate for Governor 
with great unanimity and enthusiasm. 8 After an unusually animated 
contest in which each party exerted itself to the utmost, Mr. Clinton 
was re-elected by a small majority, but neither of the results I pro- 
posed to Gen. German occurred : we did not turn the Governor out, 
nor did he put us down. Although we lost our Governor we chose 
a Legislature by which I was appointed a Senator in Congress, and 
which turned Mclntyre out of the office of Comptroller, in which 
he had worked so hard against us. 

Several "Other stirring events transpired at the session of 1820. Mr. 
Clinton called the attention of the Legislature, in his speech, to the 
Missouri Question, and recommended action upon that subject. I 
was not favourable to his recommendation, but unwilling to give 
him the advantage of wielding so powerful an influence against us 
as it would have proved to be, if we had opposed it. Incessant at- 
tempts were made by his friends to place me in that attitude. Per- 
mission was asked, and given, to use my name in a notice signed by 

1 Speech in the Senate of New Pork, on the Act to carry into effect the Act of 18th 
April, 1819, for the settlement of the late Governor's accounts. Albany, 1820. — W. C. P. 

8 Feb. 22, 1820. In an account of the meeting, written by John A. King to Rufus King, 
he said: "A well written address and Resolutions were then submitted by Mr. Van 
Buren, the chairman to the meeting, and were adopted with long and repeated cheering."— 
W. C. P. 

'The question of Tompkins' accounts remained open until after the election, and un- 
doubtedly played some part in defeating him. In November, 1820, a measure was Intro- 
duced, and passed without opposition, ending the controversy by enabling the accounts 
to be balanced. — W. C. P. 



100 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

the most respectable citizens of Albany, of all parties, calling a meet- 
ing to take the sense of the People on the subject. I was necessarily 
absent, on a foreign circuit, when the meeting was held, and refused 
my assent to their proceedings when they were presented to me, be- 
cause they bore on their face the stamp of political and partisan 
designs. A letter was written to me by the gentleman who obtained 
permission to use my name, evidently intended for publication but it 
was deemed inexpedient to publish my answer when they received it. 1 
When the Resolution was acted upon in the Senate there was neither 
debate nor a call of the Ayes and Noes ; and it was silently passed. 
I was in my seat and would have voted for it if a formal vote had been 
taken and I always afterwards therefore admitted my share of re- 
sponsibility for its passage. It may be said that in overlooking the 
bearings of the question upon the happiness of the People for whom 
Congress were acting, and allowing myself to be influenced by a 
desire to prevent the Governor from making political capital out of 
his recommendation, I placed myself on the same footing with him. 
As to motives I can only say that I state mine truly; that I acted on 
the defensive, and that I had no hand in bringing the matter forward. 

The re-election of Mr. Bufus King to the United States Senate 
was another feature of this session that excited much feeling and 
not a little surprise from the circumstance that it was unanimously 
made by men, most of whom opposed him at the preceding session. 
An appointment had been attempted then and failed because of the 
three candidates brought forward respectively by the Clintonians, 
Republicans and Federalists neither could obtain a majority of the 
whole vote, necessary to obtain a majority in either House; the 
strength of the Democrats and Clintonians being nearly equal, and 
divided between Col. Young and John C. Spencer. 2 

In the recess I became, I believe for the first time, acquainted 
personally with Mr. King, and from my connection with the defense 
of Vice President Tompkins, in which the subject was noticed, be- 
came also better informed of his patriotic course in support of the 
War after the capture of Washington, and his urgent appeal to the 
Vice President, then Governor, to assume every responsibility and 
to trust for indemnity to the justice of his Country. Influenced by 

1 Henry F. Jones, Jan. 19, 1S20, to Van Buren and draft of Van Buren's answer, Jan. 
21, are In the Van Buren Papers. 

» The three candidates proposed were John C. Spencer by the Clintonians, Samuel 
Young, by the republicans or " Bucktalls " and Rufus King, by the federalltsts. " In the 
assembly Mr. Spencer received fifty four votes, Mr. Young forty four, and Mr. King 
thirty four. Some of the members, who, on the resolution, voted for Col. Young, when 
the resolution was lost, voted for Mr. King. The whole number of republican votes, in 
both houses, for Col. Young, were fifty seven, while those given to Mr. Spencer were 
sixty four; showing evidently, at that time, a republican majority in the legislature in 
favor of Mr. Clinton ; but the preponderance of talent was decidedly with the Bucktalls," 
Hammond, History of Political Parties in the State of New York, I, 486. The details of 
the proceedings are told in John A. King to Rufus King, February 2, 1819. Life and 
Correspondence of Rufus King, VI, 202.— W. C P. 



AOTOBIOGBAPHY Of AfcbmK VAK BTJREff. 101 

these considerations, and doubtless stimulated by a desire to obtain 
for Tompkins the votes and support of that-Seotfop of the federalists 
called "the high-minded" — then supposed to'Wgtnte influential — 
I resolved, before the meeting of the Legislature^ to support his 
re-election. To this end, I prepared, under the pressure*" bf my 
numerous other avocations, a Pamphlet in his favor, whicfi f sab- 
mitted to the examination of Mr. William L. Marcy, by whom lt'^rHd 
much improved, from which circumstance Judge Hammond, in somfe 
degree correctly describes it as our joint production. The pamphlet 
was sent to the Members before they left home, and had, it was 
believed, considerable effect upon their opinions. It was signed 
"A Member of the Legislature" but generally understood, and not 
denied, to come from me. With the exception of a few members of 
the delegation from the city of New York, who never forgave my 
refusal to unite in an adverse nomination to Mr. Clinton, the vote 
of the Legislature was unanimous in favor of Mr. King's re-election. 
No one supposed for a moment that Mr. Clinton and his friends 
were otherwise than hostile to the measure, but it was well under- 
stood that they voted for it for the same reason which they charged 
influenced us; that of gathering strength for the Gubernatorial 
election. The part I took in the affair was a stereotyped charge 
against me for the remainder of my political career, brought forward 
by different parties and factions in turn as the shifting phases of 
party politics made it their cue to lay hold of the subject. That 
good natured but most unscrupulous politician, Major Noah, then 
the Editor of the National Advocate, applied for and obtained a 
confidential communication of my views on the subject as necessary 
to the proper discharge of his editorial duties. When he became, 
in the progress of time, opposed to me, he furnished to my enemies 
for publication extracts from my letter, shamefully garbled, but 
even in that state harmless. In 1840, when he felt rather friendly 
again, he, to my amusement, offered the letter to a political friend to 
save himself from the importunities of the Whig Committee of Rich- 
mond, who he said were anxious to obtain it, having evidently for- 
gotten the roguish use he had himself, years before, made of its 
contents. 1 

1 This letter Is printed on p. 188 of the Autobiography. The autograph draft 1b In the 
Van Bnren Papers. Rufus King gracefully noted his Indebtedness to Van Buren, In the 
following extract of a letter to John A. King, January 14, 1820: "The part taken by 
Mr. Van Buren has Indeed been most liberal, and as I conceive at the risk of impair* 
lng his high standing and influence among his political friends ; do not fail therefore to 
inform him that I can never be insensible of his generosity and that no occasion can ar- 
rive, that I shall not be ready to prove to him the personal respect k esteem with 
which he has inspired me." Two months later (March 18) he wrote : "To the Vice 
President I am not a little indebted for the support without which Mr. Clinton and his' 
federal friends would have succeeded in degrading me. To Van Buren more especially 
am I most particularly obliged ; whose views and principles, as far as I have understood 
them, deserve my hearty approbation." — W. C. F. 



102 AMERICAN mSTOMOAL ASSOCIATION. 

The election of 1820 jilted in the choice of a Democratic ma- 
jority in the Houspifc Assembly, and we availed ourselves of our full 
possession of J&tftfbranches of the Legislature, at the Extra session 
called for \he # di5ice of Presidential Electors in the fall of that year, 
to pa^jKBiJl providing for a Convention to amend the ° Constitution 
wgf *<£>£» State, which was rejected in the Council of Revision by the 
. /;. Citing vote of Gov. Clinton. 1 Two friendly Judges, Piatt and Van 
**.; :**Jfess, were absent on their circuits; Chancellor Kent and Judge 
Spencer were known to be against the Bill, and the vote of Judge 
Woodworth, who had been recently nominated by Governor Clinton 
was confidently counted on to save the latter from the necessity of 
giving the casting vote. To the surprise of every one, and the in- 
dignation of the Clintonians, he voted with Judge Yates, and thus 
produced the tie. 8 A law was passed early in the winter session 
to submit the question of Convention or No Convention to the Peo- 
ple in the spring, who decided in favor of holding it by a majority 
of seventy thousand. 

• MS. I, p. 135. 

1 In the session of 1817-18 Ogden Edwards, of New York, brought a Mil into the 
assembly for calling a State convention to consider such parts of the constitution as 
related to the appointment of offices. The object was to substitute for the council of 
appointment some other method of appointing officers. Hammond advised Clinton to 
adopt the suggestion and couple with It an alteration and extension of the right of 
suffrage. "All men had become disgusted with the appointing power, under the old 
constitution, and so universal was the opinion that a change ought to be made, that 
I was satisfied that the council of appointment could not much longer form a part 
of our governmental machinery. The right of suffrage, too, was more restricted in 
this State than In any other of the northern or middle States ; and I was satisfied 
that public opinion, In a State so" highly democratic, would not much longer endure 
the restriction" (Hammond, I, 469). Although Clinton controlled one branch of the 
legislature and could have directed the course of the question he refused to support it, 
presumably on the ground that the project had originated in the opposition. Edward's 
bill was rejected. 

The Idea of a convention was not abandoned by those opposed to Clinton, and his 
re-election in 1820 produced the necessary unanimity. Local meetings were held ad* 
vocating a convention, and the democrats, " perceiving that the only sure means " of get- 
ting rid of Clinton was by changing some of the methods of government, " availed them- 
selves, with great skill and adroitness, of the propensity of the people for an alter- j 
atlon of the constitution to effect that object/' It was to be a convention with un- 
restricted powers, not confined only to the machinery of appointments. Clinton was i 
now in favor of the plan, and wished the question of calling a convention to be sub- i 
mitted to the people; bat the democrats were in a majority in both houses of the ' 
Legislature, and passed a measure providing for a convention, the results of which | 
were to be submitted to the people for confirmation or rejection. The Clintonians 
feared that It was the purpose of those favoring a convention of unlimited powers to 
abolish the existing judiciary system, and introduce a new one not containing the pres- 
ent judges and chancellor, who had created a prejudice by their political activities, 
(■aining confidence in their ability to manage the convention after their own wishes, i 
they yielded and joined in favoring the movement. The bill was thrown ont by the i 
Council of Revision, as related by Van Buren. To overcome the opposition of the i 
Council some leading Federalists proposed to have the Council of Appointment ap- I 
point three additional judges, and if experience should show there were then too many ' 
judges, a convention might be called to modify the Judiciary department so as to " In- | 
sure an unpolitical tribunal." Rufus King refused to give his support to this sugges- | 
tlon, and it was never seriously discussed. — W. C. F. | 

1 The same story, with other details, Is told by Hammond, History of Political Parties | 

in the State of New York, I, 545.— W. C. F. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MABTIN VAN BTJKEN. 108 

These circumstances seemed to overthrow the popularity of the 
Governor, already greatly shaken, and induced his friends to advise 
him to retire to private life at the end of his term, as he decided 
to do. The Assembly also chose at the Extra-session a new Council 
of Appointment of which Skinner, Bowne, and Evans were mem- 
bers. 1 Evans came to Albany, an honest and intelligent young man 
from the Western District as a Clintonian, but being disgusted with 
his Associates in the Legislature, he sought me out, in one of our 
Caucuses, before they separated from us and when their leaders were 
trying, against our opposition, to obtain an adjournment, and told 
me that he had lost all confidence in the men with whom he was 
acting, and asked me to consent to an adjournment, which I cheer- 
fully did, from which time to the end of his life he was my fast and 
active friend politically and personally. 

*ThlA election was held on November 8, 1820. The full conncll was Walter Bowne 
of the southern district, John T. Moore, of the middle, Boger Skinner of the eastern, 
and David E. Evans, of the western. The Clinton candidates were Townsend, Ross, 
Frothingham and Barstow. Skinner was at this time United States Judge of the 
northern district of New York, as well as a member of the State Senate. — W. C F. 



CHAPTER VII. 

The first question that presented itself at the ensuing winter session 
was that of filling the vacancy in the office of United States Sena- 
tor, occasioned by the expiration of Mr. Sanford's term. Our 
friends came to Albany in the opinion that the time had arrived 
when my services ought to be transferred to the Federal government. 
Mr. Sanford received a few votes in Caucus, but on the appointment 
every democratic member voted for me, while he received the votes 
of the Clintonians. I had neither solicited the place nor taken a 
single step to promote my election, but was gratified by the distinc- 
tion. My old professional opponent, Elisha Williams, then in the 
Legislature, offered to support me in return for my having once sus- 
tained him against one of my political friends, in a matter by which 
the fortune of his family was made; I told him that he was mis- 
taken in supposing that he was under any obligation to me, as I had 
only done in that case what I thought was right — but that I was 
pleased with his sense of the act, and had certainly no objections to 
his easing his mind by returning the supposed favor, which would 
be better done by voting with his federal friends for Mr. Sanford. 
This amused him very much and induced him to say in the House, in 
his own way, that he thought I was the fittest man for Senator, but as 
he was the very incarnation of old Federalism, I would not let him 
vote for me, and he therefore voted for Sanford. 1 

In April 1820, some forty gentlemen, of the federal party, most 
of them young men of talent and all occupying respectable positions 
in society, came out with an Address in which they insisted that no 
" high-minded federalist " would support Clinton. The use of this 
expression obtained for them the designation of " the high-minded " 
in the political nomenclature of the times, while their demonstration 
against the Governor secured for them from his friends the less 
flattering sobriquet of "the forty thieves."* John Duer was their 
ablest man, but his Federalism was so deeply dyed as to neutralize 

1 The caucus for the purpose of naming a candidate for the United States Senate was 
held on February 1, 1821. Sanford was nominated by Mr. Romalne, of New York, and 
Mr. Eldred, of Otsego, brought forward the name of Van Buren. No charges of neglect 
of duty or want of loyalty to the party were made against Sanford, and, it was urged, 
that to set him aside without cause, would be equivalent to a vote of censure, seal his 
political usefulness, and destroy his political character in the public estimation. His 
great knowledge and experience in commercial affairs peculiarity fitted him to repre- 
sent the State in the Senate. Col. Young acted as Van Buren's advocate, saying that 
with Rufus King in the Senate the commercial matters would have proper attention, 
and on a ballot Van Buren received 58 votes against 24 for his opponent. A resolution 
was adopted expressive of the confidence of the meeting in Sanford, as balm to his 
wounded feelings. — W. C. F. 

• A list of the forty who signed the address of April 14, 1820, will be found in Ham- 
mond, History of Political Parties in the State of New York, I, 529. — W. C. F. 

104 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN YAK BUBEN. 105 

all his efforts to become a democrat. The sons of Rufus King were 
prominent members. The whole number were indeed Mr. King's 
devoted friends, and his advancement was the object nearest their 
hearts. Their opposition to Mr. Clinton, to whom they allowed no 
credit for the support his friends had given to Mr. King, was cor- 
dially reciprocated. • Tompkins was not to their taste as a candidate 
for Governor, but when his nomination was decided on they supported 
him with zeal and fidelity. 

Pleased with their society and with the spirited manner in which 
they sustained their position, I became more intimate with them than 
was the case with any other prominent democrat, and formed sincere 
attachments to several of their number. Our friendly relations were 
strengthened by the early stand I took in favor of Mr. King, and 
their conviction that he was principally indebted for his election to 
that circumstance, as they well knew that the friends of Mr. Clinton 
would not otherwise have supported him. My partiality for them 
produced heart-burnings on the part of many democratic young men, 
which, in regard to some, were never entirely removed. Federalists 
from their birth, and of the oldest and strictest sect; they could not 
make much impression by their efforts upon the democratic ranks, 
and failing to draw after them those from whom they had separated, 
their success was not equal to their expectations, neither were they 
treated by our party with the consideration which they thought they 
deserved. Resentments engendered on the first moments of separa- 
tion between political associates are always accessible to the mollify- 
ing influences of former sympathies not entirely extinguished, and 
the recollection of common struggles and triumphs in the old cause 
paves the way for re-union. These are more efficient when the cause 
is one in which they or their ancestors have acquired distinction. 
Most of these gentlemen had from early manhood, enjoyed high and 
influential position in what was called good society, and the sup- 
position that they expected to occupy, on that account, greater con- 
sideration in the democratic organization was not acceptable in that 
quarter. There was a warm concurrence in feeling and opinion 
between us upon the point that brought us together— opposition to 
Mr. Clinton — but in regard to other matters we were far from enter- 
taining similar views. Upon some of the latter we were called to act 
together at a period when the ardour of our first embraces had in 
some degree subsided. The first occasion of that description was 
presented by the Convention for the Revision of the State Con- 
stitution, which met at Albany in August 1821. 1 

The County of Albany, where I resided, being then hopelessly 
federal, the democrats of the large agricultural county of Otsego 

'The convention assembled at Albany August 28, 1821, and did not close Its sessions 
till November 10.— W. C. F. 



1 



106 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

elected me to the Convention without even apprising me of their 
intention. 

The federalists insisted, and generally believed that we main- 
tained our ascendency in power mainly thro* the influence of the 
Council of Appointment^ and were therefore feverishly anxious for 
its abolition. Convinced by full experience that the possession and 
distribution of patronage did us more harm than good, as a party. 
I early determined to advocate its diffusion to the widest extent 
that should be found practical and consistent with the public in- 
terest. When asked by the President of the Convention (Tomp- 
kins) on what Committee he should place me, I replied, on that 
"on the appointing power". Not understanding, or rather mis- 
understanding my object, he smiled, but complied with my wish. 
The fact that I was placed at the head of that Committee 1 strength- 
ened the opinions of the federal members and made them quite con- 
fident that an effort was to be made to preserve the Council of Ap- 
pointment in a form perhaps changed but of unabated efficiency. 
The President gave me an excellent Committee, embracing how- 
ever, but under proper control, some of the most violent denouncers 
of the Convention. Among these was Judge Ogden Edwards, of 
the New York delegation, an honest, capable and well-meaning' 
man, but always overflowing with political prejudices. His dis- 
position in this respect was vouched for by his own father, as re- 
lated to me by my friend, Roger Skinner, who, on his return from 
a visit to Connecticut, his native state, told me that he had met the 
celebrated Pierpoint Edwards, the father of Ogden, and that he 
had added to the usual enquiries about his son the question whether 
" he had got through damning De Witt Clinton yet?" 

I rather mischievously delayed calling my Committee together 
until the suspicions I have referred to had time to mature. When we 
were assembled I proposed to call on each member for his general 
opinions upon the subject committed to us. Mr. Edwards imme- 
diately suggested that the Chairman should give his views first. This 
I declined to do, on the ground that such a course would be contrary 
to parliamentary usage, according to which the Chairman is regarded 
as a mediator, and, to some extent, an umpire between the conflicting 
opinions of the Committee. 

The process I proposed was then entered upon, and when finished 
I deferred giving my own views until the next meeting. At that 
meeting I submitted my propositions which were in substance. 

1st To abolish the existing Council of Appointment without sub- 
stituting any similar institution in its place; 

»The full committee contained Martin Van Buren, Btrdseye, Collin* 

Jesse Buel, Child, Ogden Edwards, and Bhlnelander. — W. C. F. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN VAN BXTREN. 10*7 

2nd To provide for the election of all military officers by the choice 
of Companies, Regiments and Brigades; 

°3d To give the appointment of high Judicial Officers to the Gov- 
ernor and Senate, and 

4th To provide for the choice of all other Officers, save only Jus- 
tices of the Peace, by the People, either through appointment by the 
Legislature, or by direct election. The Justices of the Peace, as Judi- 
cial Officers, ought not, I said, to be elected, but to bring them as near 
to the People as possible and avoid the objections to their election, I 
proposed that two lists should be made in each county, one by the 
Board of Supervisors (who were themselves elected by the People 
in each town) and the other by the county court Judges ; whenever 
these two lists agreed the choice should be complete, and whenever 
they differed the Governor should select the Justices from them. 

The jealous members of the Committee were not only disappointed, 
but some of them confounded by my propositions. They went so 
far beyond their expectations, in distributing the patronage of the 
Government, and in removing the grounds upon which they expected 
the battle in regard to the appointing power to be fought, as to 
draw from some the charge of radicalism. The question in regard 
to Justices of the Peace was the only remaining point on which 
speeches that had been prepared, in expectation of a different report, 
could be directed. My recommendations were substantially adopted 
by the Committee, but the portion of them relating to the choice of 
Justices was violently assailed in the Convention by the federal mem- 
bers and also by the "high-minded" gentlemen. I stated frankly 
the principle upon which that part of my report was founded, and 
that I considered it a fair subject for differences of opinion. The 
questions were whether the spirit of the rule, to which every body 
then assented, that the higher Judicial Officers ought not to be elected 
should be respected in providing for the choice of Justices of the 
Peace ; and, if so, whether the mode proposed by the Committee for 
their selection was the best 

Mr. Rufus King attacked the proposition with great earnestness, 
and scarcely concealed acrimony. After enumerating a few objec- 
tions to its practical operation, he took up the subject of the old 
Council of Appointment, and denounced it as a machine that had in 
times past been used and abused to monopolize central power. Al- 
though his remarks were not directly aimed at me or at my friends, 
they were, I thought, sufficiently susceptible of that construction to 
require notice from me. 

I replied at considerable length and with some warmth and in 
the course of my remarks alluded delicately but intelligibly to one 

° M8. I, p. 140. 



108 AMERICAN HISTORICAL, ASSOCIATION. 

of the uses that had been made of what he denounced as the Central 
Power of which he had not complained. This affair caused a re- 
serve in our personal intercourse which continued for some time, and 
until the period arrived when our franking privilege as United States 
Senators commenced. He then came to my seat and announced the 
fact to me as a matter that might have escaped my notice, and at the 
same time pressed me to dine with him. 

After dinner he proposed a walk, and in the course of it spoke 
feelingly of the collisions which political life almost unavoidably 
produced between the best of friends, and the inquietude growing 
out of them, and said that the best remedy he had discovered was to 
forget and forgive— to sleep upon the matter, and rising in the morn- 
ing to wash, shave, put on fresh linen, and think no more of it Un- 
derstanding the object of these suggestions, I also came to the con- 
clusion to dismiss the subject from my thoughts, and our personal re- 
lations resumed their previous footing. 

Some time afterwards, and during the session of the Convention, 
an editorial article appeared in the Argus remarking upon this and 
other differences of opinion between this section and the great body 
of our party — admitting that to some extent they had been antici- 
pated as likely to occur in the course of time, but saying that it was 
not expected that they would present themselves so soon. When I 
came into the Convention, John Duer, in a courteous and not un- 
friendly manner, repeated to me the closing words — * wot so soon " — 
w : th significant emphasis. This led to a farther conversation in 
which I admitted that the article spoke my sentiments. We dined 
together at his brother's lodgings with a few mutual friends, and 
had an animated conversation upon points in regard to which we 
entertained diverse views, in the course of which, becoming con- 
vinced that there were radical differences in our feelings and opin- 
ions which must prevent us from long acting together, I involuntarily 
struck my hand upon the table with unusual earnestness, when he 
instantly turned to me, and said '' that is the indication of a grave 
conclusion ! May I know what it is, Sir ? " I laughed at his inter- 
pretation and turned the conversation into a different channel. 

These occurrences produced distrust, but no personal hostility, or 
even determination to separate. That was brought to pass by the 
ensuing Presidential election, and the influences it called into action. 
A large majority of the Democrats supported Crawford, the rest 
dividing upon Adams and Clay. The " high-minded " espoused the 
cause of Mr. Adams zealously, and the feelings produced, or rather 
revived by that contest carried them back into the federal ranks, — 
then called National Republicans — where the survivors are still 
serving as Whigs. 



CHAPTER VIII. 

All personal intercourse between Charles King, Editor of the New 
York American, and myself was for many years broken off. After 
he had retired from the Editorial profession, and had, I believe, 
received the appointment of President of Columbia College, we hap- 
pened to meet at an entertainment given at the opening of a new 
Club House in New York. He approached me and entered into a 
familiar conversation upon the topicks of the day. So long a time 
had elapsed since I had seen him that I took him for his brother 
James * and reciprocated his address very cordially, but the idea of 
my mistake soon occurring to me the conversation gradually stiff- 
ened on my part, and he, perceiving and understanding it, rather 
abruptly but gradually withdrew. My son, Col. Van Buren, stand- 
ing at some distance, and witnessing and comprehending the whole 
scene, advanced towards me as Mr. King walked away, and said " I 
saw that you did not at first recognize your old friend Charles." 
I confessed that I had not, but as it had ever been my practice to 
continue the war as long as my adversary desired it, but always to 
be prepared for peace, I sought him out, and renewed a friendly 
intercourse that has since been uninterrupted. 

Thus disappeared from the political stage a party which, though 
small in numbers produced nearly or quite as great an impression 
as its predecessor and counterpart, in respect to size, the Burrites — in 
their day distinguished by the name of the " Little Band." The 
latter were heard and felt through the pamphlet of "Aristides" 
written by William P. Van Ness. 2 — a production of great celebrity in 
its time, — the Morning Chronicle, edited by Peter Irving, elder 
brother of Washington Irving, and the " Corrector," a stinging little 
sheet, edited by a number of young men and to which, I believe 
Washington Irving was a contributor. The New York American, 
edited with great ability, and a series of clever publications, of 
which " Dick Shift " * (supposed to have been written by John Duer ) 
was the most piquant, were the oracles of the " high-minded." The 
Burrites were headed by Aaron Burr, and the sons of Alexander 
Hamilton were prominent members of the " high minded " party. 

To the latter belonged indisputably the paternity of one public 
measure, namely the attempt to impeach William W. Van Ness, 
one of the Justices of the Supreme Court, for receiving a bribe from 

1 James Gore King. 

' An examination of the Tarlooa charges exhibited against Aaron Burr, Vice-President of 
the United Statea, and a Development of the Characters and Views of his Political 
Opponents. By Aristides. 1803. — W. C. F. 

* See the letter from Johnston Verplanck to Van Buren, December 25, 1819, in the Van 
Bnren Papers.— W. C. F. 

100 



110 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

the Bank of America, to secure the assent of the Council of Revision, 
of which the Judges were then members, to the act of incorporation. 
The fact that the Bank obtained its charter thro' the most daring and 
unscrupulous bribery practiced upon various persons, occupying 
different positions in the public service, is undeniable. The matter 
was investigated with great solemnity by a Committee of the House 
of Assembly, appointed on the motion of Erastus Root, upon the 
exhibition of the charge made by the Editors of the New York 
American, Charles King, Johnston Verplanck and James A. Hamil- 
ton, over their own signatures. The Judge appeared before the 
Committee, supported by an imposing array of Counsel, and the 
principal part of the session was occupied with the examination. 1 
The Committee finally reported that there was no ground for the 
interference of the House, but the public mind did not respond 
favorably to the conclusions of the report. The consciousness of 
this fact preyed upon the Judge's spirits, and hurried him to a 
premature grave. 

Judge Van Ness was by nature the ablest man among his asso- 
ciates in public life. His facilities for early improvement had been 
but limited, and he had no taste for deep study ; the brilliant repu- 
tation he established as a lawyer and Judge was therefore mainly 
founded on the raw materials with which nature had liberally en- 
dowed him. His personal figure was imposing and his manners 
peculiarly fascinating — so much so that even his enemies courted 
his society. He was a member of the Constitutional Convention of 
1821, which was the last public station he held. In that body a 
proposition was introduced by Gov. Tompkins, and supported by 
Erastus Root and a host of other democrats, to vacate the offices of 
the Chancellor and Justices of the Supreme Court by the new Con- 
stitution. Although the Convention had the power to do this, it 
had certainly not been expected by the Legislature or the People that 
such a step would be taken. Sincerely desirous to secure the respect 
and sanction of the public for our proceedings and opposed upon 
principle to a course so proscriptive, I threw myself in the breach 
against the weight of my party and opposed the proposition. To 
neutralize the prejudices of friends, and to conciliate moderate men, 
whilst resisting a measure, the success of which threatened all that 
remained of the former greatness of Judge Van Ness, I deemed it 
a fit if not a necessary occasion to allude to our past relations. This 
was done in a speech delivered in his presence, from which the fol- 
lowing in an extract: 

The Judicial officer who could not be reached in either of those ways, ought 
not to be touched. There were, therefore, no public reasons for the measure, 

• MS. I, p. 145. 

1 See Proceedings of the Committee appointed to inquire into the official Conduct ot 
William W. Van Ness, New York, 1820. — W. C. F. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN VAN BUREN. Ill 

and If not, then why are we to adopt it? Certainly not from personal 
feelings. If personal feelings could or ought to influence us against the In- 
dividual who would probably be most affected by the adoption of this amend- 
ment, Mr. Van Buren supposed that he above all others would be excused for 
Indulging them. He could with truth say, that he had through his whole 
life been assailed from that quarter, with hostility, political, professional and 
personal — hostility which had been the most keen, active and unyielding. But, 
sir, said he, am I on that account, to avail myself of my situation as a repre- 
sentative of the people, sent here to make a constitution for them and their 
posterity, and to Indulge my individual resentments in the prostration of my 
private and political adversary. He hoped it was unnecessary for him to say, 
that he should forever despise himself if he could be capable of such conduct. 
He also hoped that that sentiment was not confined to himself alone, and that 
the Convention would not ruin its character and credit, by proceeding to such 
extremities. 1 

A sufficient number of my political friends voted with me to de- 
feat the proposition. The Chancellor and three of the Judges were 
members of the Convention. The latter left soon after to hold the 
Term at Utica, and the democratic portion of the Convention, no 
longer irritated by the active intermeddling of Judges Spencer and 
Van Ness in matters supposed to have partisan tendencies, was los- 
ing the memory of my rebellion against party discipline and of the 
whole subject; but the return of those gentlemen with renewed ar- 
dour to their work of political intrigue caused a new proposition, 
sufficiently varied in form to evade the parliamentary rule, to be 
promptly introduced by a lay member, and procured for it a vigor- 
ous support. I felt that I could now do no more than give a silent 
vote against the measure. The proposition was adopted, the offices 
of the Judges were vacated, a new Governor was elected before the 
time arrived to fill the vacancies, and neither Spencer nor Van Ness 
were renominated. They both resumed the practice of their profes- 
sion, but his misfortunes preying upon Van Ness 9 proud spirit his 
health failed, and he went to South Carolina in the hope of re-estab- 
lishing it, but there, soon after, died at the house of his connexion, 
Mr. Bay, a highly respectable resident of Charleston. I was inform- 
ed by Mr. Bay, many years afterwards, that, in the closing scenes of 
his life, the Judge spoke often and feelingly of his political and per- 
sonal controversies, and that whilst he referred with much severity 
to the conduct of some of those with whom he had been in collision, 
he took pains to say that he should die without complaint or bitter- 
ness against me, who, altho' among the most uniform of his oppo- 
nents, had always treated him frankly and fairly. His unfriendliness 
throughout his public life did not prevent my sincere sympathy with 
him when he fell, and with his friends in their prayers over his 
ashes. 



1 Reports of the New York State Convention, 1821 (Carter and Stone), p. 635. 



112 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

A new Constitution was adopted by the Convention providing for 
increased action on the part of the People themselves in the manage- 
ment of public affairs, and liberalizing and elevating the political 
institutions of the State to the standard required by the advances 
made by public opinion in that direction. 

I have noticed the part that I took in regard to two questions that 
were acted upon by the Convention because they were more or less 
complicated with other matters. To do as much in reference to all, 
would require more space than I think it would be proper to dfevote 
to the subjects here. There was scarcely any question raised in the 
discussion of which I did not participate to a greater or less extent, 
and those discussions as well as the votes that followed them are to 
be found reported in the official proceedings and published accounts 
of the 'doings of the Convention, which publications, altho' not accu- 
rate throughout, are sufficiently so for all important purposes. 

On one point only will I add a few words of explanation, because 
it has been the subject of much remark, and of much partizan misrep- 
resentation. 

At one stage of our proceedings I was alarmed at the ground taken 
by a number of my political friends upon the question of suffrage. 
They seemed willing to go at once from a greatly restricted suffrage 
to one having but the appearance of restriction, which I considered 
very hazardous as well to our institutions as to the success of the work 
of the Convention. I preferred to move upon this truly important 
point step by step, and to advance as we should find ourselves justified 
by experience. The partizan policy of advocating extreme measures 
of seeming popularity, trusting that somebody else would prevent 
their adoption, or that perchance they might not work as badly, if 
adopted, as my reason anticipated, has never, I can conscientiously 
say, been mine. I therefore exerted myself to moderate the extreme 
views of my friends, and, when necessary, to oppose them until the 
suffrage was established on what I deemed safe and reasonable 
grounds. For this, and upon the ground of expressions loosely and 
inaccurately reported I was for many years much censured, but, I 
believe, not injured, because the People saw the soundness of my 
motive even thro' the distorted and false views in which, for sinister 
purposes, the subject was presented to them. 

The new Constitution was approved and adopted by an immense 
majority of the People. 1 Judge Joseph C. Yates was elected Gov- 
ernor, under its provisions, without opposition, Governor Clinton 
retiring to private life, and I soon after took my seat in the Senate 
of the United States. 

1 The result showed 75,422 rotes in favor of the Constitution and 41,497 votes against 
or a majority of 33,925 on the side of adoption. — W. C. F. 



CHAPTER IX. 

The transfer from the State to the Federal Service has generally 
been considered as a discharge from responsibility for the manage- 
ment of the affairs of the former, but neither friends nor foes would 
permit such a result in my case. The first had claims upon my 
gratitude and good offices that I was not inclined to disregard, and 
the latter found or fancied a party benefit in charging me with 
influencing the action of the State Government from Washington 
thro' the agency of representatives at home to whom they gave the 
name of the " Albany Regency." 

The inconvenience, to say the least of it, of this ubiquitous re- 
sponsibility was strikingly and very disagreeably illustrated by 
bringing me very early into disfavour with the new Governor whose 
nomination I had preferred and aided in effecting. Judge Yates 
was an honest man, possessed of a good understanding, who always 
designed to do what he thought was right. He warded off too strict 
a scrutiny into his mental capacities by a dignified and prudent re- 
serve — a policy that long practice had made a second nature. He 
had been strongly tempted,, by his marriage connections, to depart 
from the simplicity of life and manners characteristic of his race. 
His first wife was a Kane, a family which almost without exception 
was distinguished for the personal beauty of its members, and their 
natural dignity of carriage, and which had made considerable ad- 
vances towards the establishment of a sort of family aristocracy be- 
fore it gave way under the pressure of adverse circumstances. His 
second wife, with whom he acquired a good estate, was a De Lancey, 
a powerful family at the commencement of the revolution, jealousy 
of whose superior position at Court was said to have had great in- 
fluence in inducing the Livingstons, and other families who figured 
in that contest, to espouse the popular side. My acquaintance with 
Mrs. Yates has led me to regard her as a good woman of superior 
mind and sedulous in the performance of duty. I paid the Judge a 
visit at Schenectady at the time when we were preparing to bring 
him forward as a candidate for Governor, in company with several 
of the " high-minded " gentlemen to whom he was very partial. 
While we were at dinner the conversation was mischievously turned 
by one of the guests for his own amusement to a matter in regard to 
which our host ° and myself had, in past times, stood in opposition 

* MS. i, p. ISO. 
127483°— vol 2—20 8 113 



114 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

to each otfrer. The Judge promptly and courteously said in reference 
to it, "Ah ! that was at a time when I did not understand Mr. Van 
Buren as well as I do now ! " On which Mrs. Yates turned to her 
husband, and asked with unaffected simplicity whether he was sure 
that he understood me now! The question of course was received 
with a general burst of laughter, and not having the slightest idea 
of incivility or unfriendliness, she began to apprehend that she had 
shown both — an apprehension that it cost me no small effort to efface 
from her mind. The circumstance slight as it was, strengthened 
my impression that she was not in all respects well adapted to the 
office of guarding her husband against the effects of a suspicious 
temperament, which had been always an obstacle to his advancement, 
and was the principal cause of his failure in public life. 

On my way to Washington, in the fall preceding the Judge's 
assumption of his official duties, I remained some time in New York 
winding up professional concerns at the November Term of the 
Supreme Court. Many of my friends were there in the prosecution 
of their professional engagements, and some were doubtless brought 
there by their fondness for political gossip, and by a desire to take 
leave of me. I had not been long in Washington before I learned, 
thro' a source entitled to my confidence, that the Governor-elect had 
been told that I had assembled my friends in a private meeting at 
New York, at which we had marked out a course for the Governor 
to pursue as the indispensable condition of our support. There was 
of course not a word of truth in this story, and under ordinary cir- 
cumstances I would have taken no notice of it. But I knew the 
Governor's disposition, and that he was surrounded by men in whom 
I had little confidence, who owed me no good will and who had 
personal objects which they might hope to promote by Availing 
themselves in this form of an infirmity to which they knew him to 
be subject. I therefore determined to address myself to him di- 
rectly, and to make a serious effort not only to disabuse his mind 
upon the particular point, but to prevent the recurrence of similar 
misunderstandings. In the propriety of this course, Mr. King, to 
whom I mentioned the subject, fully concurred, and I wrote a letter 
to the Governor in which I referred to the story I have mentioned 
as a vile falsehood, expressed my apprehension that other misrep- 
resentations of the same character would be made by bad men for 
selfish purposes, avowed my disinclination to the slightest personal 
interference in affairs which had, with my hearty approbation, been 
committed to his hands, and closed with what appeared to me a clear 
and conclusive argument to show that I could have no possible inter- 
ests that would be benefitted by his overthrow and an assurance that 
the first wish of my heart was that he might sustain himself success- 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN VAN BUREN. 115 

fully and honorably in his responsible position. With most men 
this would have been sufficient, but as to him the soil was too favor- 
able to the rank growth of the seed I endeavoured to eradicate and 
the sowers were too numerous and industrious to admit of any 
success to my efforts. He had weakened his position by his jealousy 
to an extent that enabled the friends of Col. Young to nominate the 
latter in his place during the succeeding winter. Irritated by this 
result and distrusting almost every body he was induced to take an 
official step which I will have occasion to refer to hereafter, and 
which finally prostrated him as a public man. 

I entered the Senate of the United States in December 1821, at 
the commencement of Mr. Monroe's second Presidential Term. John 
Gaillard, of South Carolina, was then, as he had been for many 
years, President pro tern, of that body. I need add nothing to the 
eloquent description given of his character by Col. Benton, in his 
Thirty Years' View, except the expression of my full concurrence 
in what has been so well said. I was first placed on both the Judi- 
ciary and Finance Committees, and soon succeeded to the Chairman- 
ship of the former, a compliment to so young a man, on his first 
appearance in the Senate, which I could not fail to appreciate. 

There was at this period a perfect calm in the public mind upon 
political subjects, and the Administration continued the course it 
had pursued during the previous term, unlike any since that of Wash- 
ington, without an organized opposition. The important questions 
that occupied the attention of Congress during the Presidency of 
Mr. Monroe were those of Internal Improvements by the Federal 
Government and a Protective Tariff. Stronger proof could not bo 
required of the capacity of our system of Government to deal with 
difficult public questions, and the strength it derives from that 
source, than the fact that those disturbing questions, which (particu- 
larly the latter) semed, in the hottest day of their agiation, to 
threaten the continuance of the Union, in so brief a period not only 
ceased to inflame the People, but, in the sense in which they were 
then advocated and opposed, have become virtually obsolete. It is 
also worthy of remark that neither of these great questions originated 
with the Administration, or were regarded as Administration Meas- 
ures. They found their origin in other sources and were called into 
existence by other considerations than those of Executive recom- 
mendation. 

Mr. Monroe was universally regarded as the last of that class of 
Statesmen to which the country had invariably theretofore looked 
for Presidential candidates. This fact was sufficient to bring for- 
ward for the succession the names of those of the succeeding genera- 
tion who deemed themselves, or were deemed by their friends, as 
possessing sufficient claims to the distinction. 



116 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

The most prominent of these were Clay, Calhoun, Crawford and 
Adams. I name Messrs. Clay and Calhoun first because, from very 
nearly the beginning of Mr. Monroe's Administration, their respec- 
tive courses were most definitely shaped to that end. 

Mr. Clay was Speaker of the House of Representatives, had re- 
turned with edat from his Mission of Peace, and enjoyed an exten- 
sive popularity with uncommon facilities for its enlargement. 

Mr. Calhoun was Secretary of War, the undoubted favorite of the 
President, and in point of talent, industry and the art of winning 
popular regard scarcely inferior to Mr. Clay. 

A better field for the display of political ability and tact than 
that presented to these distinguished gentlemen could not have been 
imagined. The old Federal Party, yet strong in numbers and rich 
in its traditions, had been reduced to a low condition by the course 
it had taken in regard to the War. Its former leaders, either from 
policy or conviction, acquiesced in the condemnation that had been 
pronounced upon it, and the future allegiance of its members seemed 
to be offered as spoils of conquest to democratic aspirants to the 
Presidency. 

Relaxation of the rigors of party discipline and acts of amnesty 
in favor of vanquished federalists — splendid schemes of Internal 
Improvement at the expense of the Federal Treasury with munifi- 
cent bounties in the form of encouragements to Domestic Industry 
to the North, the East, and the West, were the popular appeals and 
blandishments with which Mr. Clay and Mr. Calhoun, each secure 
in his position at home, entered into the Presidential Canvass. 
Hence the continued Agitation of all of these questions from near 
the beginning to the end of Mr. Monroe's Administration — leaving 
them at its close as unsettled as they were at any stage of their dis- 
cussion and as it was expedient to Presidential aspirants that they 
should be. These topicks for a political campaign were wisely se- 
lected, and produced apparently extensive effects upon the public 
mind. The great States of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New 
York, with the entire West, swallowed the baits that were held out 
to them under such alluring disguises, in which they were joined by 
the Eastern States as soon as our Yankee brethren saw that the 
protective policy had acquired a sufficient hold upon the country to 
make it safe for them to divert their superior skill and industry 
from Commerce to Manufactures. So irresistible did the current 
seem to have become that even Gen. Jackson, with all his repug- 
nance to equivocation and all his fearlessness of responsibility, was 
fain, when he was brought into the Presidential Canvass, to take 
refuge under the idea of a "judicious tariff." 

These, as I have said, altho' the prominent Measures acted upon, 
could not be regarded as among those of Mr. Monroe's Administra- 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MABTIff VAN BUBEN. 117 

tion. Although he knew that the protective policy was supported 
by several members of his Cabinet, he never recommended it in his 
Messages and he interposed his Veto against a Bill for the repair 
of the Cumberland Road in a message in which the whole subject, so 
far as it related to the exercise of Federal jurisdiction over the 
territory embraced, was elaborately discussed. 

The Cumberland Road was established under the Presidency of 
Mr. Jefferson, and whilst Mr. Gallatin was Secretary of the 
Treasury. It was originally contemplated to be made out of the 
avails arising from the sales of the public lands, and was established 
to promote such sales. But Congress soon fell into the habit of 
anticipating the receipts from that source by appropriations from 
the Treasury and this [practice] had been almost annually repeated 
for more than twenty years and had received the Executive approval 
from Jefferson and Madison. 

The jurisdiction by the Federal Government, which constituted 
the foundation of Mr. Monroe's objection had never been exercised ; 
but he was, I think, quite right in assuming that the establishment 
and support of the Road involved the claim of a right to its exer- 
cise and therefore fairly presented the constitutional question upon 
which he took, as to that point, the true ground. The Bill came up 
soon after I had taken my seat in the Senate and I voted for it 
rather on the ground of its paternity and the subsequent acquiesence 
in it, than from an examination of the subject. The whole matter 
was afterwards very thoroughly investigated by me when I found 
reason to regret that vote and to take not only an early opportunity 
to avow my error but also a decided stand against the claim in both 
aspects of Jurisdiction and Appropriation. 

The unavoidable and improper conflict of jurisdiction between the 
Federal and State authorities that must arise from the establishment 
of the Internal Improvement System advocated by its friends, was 
apparent, and the objections arising from that source was insuper- 
able. Pressed by the force of this argument the friends of the Road 
almost always shunned the discussion of that branch of the subject 
and insisted that the Federal Government could exercise a salutary 
agency in the matter by appropriations of money without cessions of 
jurisdiction. This power was fully conceded by Mr. Monroe, and the 
exercise of it was sure in the end to impoverish the National Treasury 
by improvident grants to private companies and State works, and to 
corrupt Federal legislation by the opportunities it would present for 
favoritism. I shall hereafter have occasion to speak as well of the 
part I took in this matter subsequently, as of the total and, I hope, 
final overthrow of the principle. 

•MS. I, p. 155. 



118 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

The subject of Piracy became prominent in the discussions of the 
Senate, and I made a speech upon it. 

Several Amendments of the Constitution, in regard to the election 
of President and Vice President were also offered and discussed. 
Upon one introduced by Gov. Dickerson of New Jersey, and hence 
called the New Jersey Plan, proposing to district the States, I deliv- 
ered a Speech of which I have only the preparatory notes ; these may 
be found to contain suggestions of some interest and are given in * 

The wise disposition of our People to deal prudently with matters 
touching the safe action of their political system in times past is 
strikingly illustrated, in view of the inadequacy of the provisions 
of the Constitution and laws for the government of Congress in can- 
vassing the votes for President and Vice President, by the success 
with which they have avoided difficulties for so long a period upon a 
point in which their feelings are always so deeply excited. Appre- 
hensive of danger from this source at the election of 1824r-5, when, 
from the number of Candidates, it was generally assumed that the 
election would come to the House, the Senate instructed its Judiciary 
Committee to consider the subject and to report thereon. After con- 
sulting with the older and more experienced Senators, I reported a 
Bill supplying omissions in the old law, which passed the Senate but 
failed in the House. As the law is still in the same imperfect State, 
and the matter may some day become one of considerable interest, the 
notes of my Speech upon the Bill, which were furnished to me by the 
Reporter, but have never been published, are given in 1 

1 In the Van Buren Papers, under date of December 29, 1823. 



CHAPTER X. 

The period covered by Mr. Monroe's Administration was made 
memorable by the canvass for the succession to which I have alluded. 
and by his efforts to bring about a fusion of Parties. 

Mr. Monroe's character was that of an honest man, with fair, but 
not very marked capacities, who, through life, performed every 
duty that devolved upon him with scrupulous fidelity. He had 
been honorably connected with our Revolutionary Contest, and from 
the beginning of our party divisions was found in the same ranks 
with Jefferson and his friends, although, like Mr. Madison, he was, 
while perfectly sincere, yet from a difference in temperament, neither 
so earnest nor so eager in his devotion to their common cause. But 
two circumstances occurred, at early periods in his political career, 
well calculated to stir his feelings and to whet his political zeal. 

Having been appointed Minister to France by Washington he 
was recalled under circumstances implying dissatisfaction. He 
appealed to the People for his vindication in a publicatioa of some 
length, characterized, as it has appeared to me, by great fairness. 

The second matter alluded to was as follows: — a man by the 
name of Reynolds having, on several occasions, thrown out in- 
timations that he was possessed of information that would inculpate 
criminally the administration of the Treasury Department by Alex- 
ander Hamilton, Congress appointed a Committee of Investigation 
consisting of Monroe, Venable and Leiper. 1 

Knowing that the relations between himself and Reynolds would 
require explanations which it would not be agreeable to offer on 
a public investigation, Hamilton invited the Committee to an in- 
formal meeting at his own office, and there made to them a confi- 
dential communication shewing that his connection with Reynolds 
grew out of a criminal intercourse between himself and Mrs. Rey- 
nolds, in all probability begun with the connivance of her husband, 
and ended; after the lapse of a certain time, in the pretended dis- 
covery by him, and the pecuniary extortions, under menaces of ex- 
posure, common to such cases. This statement was accompanied by 
the exhibition of a series of letters, receipts for money and other 
papers, placing its truth beyond all doubt. The Committee re- 
ported that the imputation was groundless, and the subject soon 
passed from the public mind ; but a history of the United States sub- 
sequently appeared written by the well known James Thomas Cal- 

1 Congress did not appoint a committee. An informal Investigation was made by 
Speaker Predk. A. Muhlenberg, James Monroe and Abraham Venable. Leiper was not 
in Congress until 1829. 

119 



120 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

lender, in which the charge of peculation against Gen- Hamilton 
was repeated with much solemnity. The latter sent the publica- 
tion to Mr. Monroe, and made a respectful and friendly application 
to him to be relieved, thro' his agency, from the odium of the charge 
by a statement that would have that effect. Party spirit ran high, 
and Mr. Monroe omitted to comply with this request. This omission 
drew from Gen. Hamilton a letter that was not a challenge absolute 
or conditional in its terms, and contained no expression from which 
an intention to make it the prelude to a challenge could be positively 
assumed, but no one doubted on reading it that such was the Gen- 
eral's ultimate expectation. This was answered by Mr. Monroe with 
a few but slight words of explanation in regard to the course he 
had adopted, and with a declaration in conclusion — from all that 
appeared in the correspondence, quite abrupt, — that if the General's 
letter was intended to convey a demand for personal satisfaction his 
friend Col. Burr was authorized to make the necessary arrangements. 
Gen. Hamilton denied that such was the intention of his letter, but 
said, in reply, that if an invitation to the field was intended to be 
conveyed by Col. Monroe's letter he should not decline it, and his 
friend Major Jackson was authorized to make the arrangements that 
would in that event become necessary. Mr. Monroe disclaimed such 
an intention, and the affair was terminated by a letter from Gen. 
Hamilton which concluded with a declaration that he did not regard 
the case as one calling for the resort that had been referred to. 

Gen. Hamilton, thinking that the only way to wipe off the re- 
proach that it was attempted to fasten upon his official character, 
published to the World, a complete history of the transactions, in- 
cluding all the documents submitted to the Committee, and the cor- 
respondence with Monroe, in a Pamphlet written with much feeling 
and signal ability. 1 This having been done without consultation with 
his friends, they took unwearied pains to suppress the publication, 
deeming it neither necessary nor expedient. But few copies es- 
caped their efforts, and one of these was sent to me, many years ago, 
as a curiosity by an old gentleman whose antiquarian tastes led him 
to collect and preserve such things, but I have °not seen it for a long 
time, and what I have stated is from a recollection of its contents. 

I read it at an early period of my life with great interest, and 
could not but be strongly and favorably impressed by the readiness 
with which Gen. Hamilton exposed his moral character to just cen- 
sure and the feelings of his family to the greatest annoyance, while 

1 Observations on Certain Documents contained in Noa. V and VI of The History of the 
United States for the Year 1796, in which the charge of speculation against Alexander 
Hamilton, late Secretary of the Treasury, is fully refuted. Written by himself. Phila. 
Printed for John Fenno, by John Bloren, 1797. 

• MS. I, p. 160. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MABTIN VAN BUREN. 121 

vindicating his official conduct from unmerited reproach. But not- 
withstanding my partiality for his personal character, and my con- 
fidence in his courage, I could not resist the conclusion, on reading 
the correspondence, that Colonel Monroe's disorderly inversion of 
the regular steps of such affairs, by his bull-dog avowal of a readi- 
ness to fight before he was challenged, having divested the contest of 
its formal chivalry and dignity, induced the General to bring it to 
a different result from that which he had at first contemplated. 

It is not unlikely that these collisions with gentlemen at the head 
of the Federal Government, whilst they afforded a useful stimulus 
to Mr. Monroe's partizan zeal, attracted towards him, under the 
political excitements of the periods when they occurred, a larger 
share of popular attention and led to more numerous public employ- 
ments, than, not being either a good speaker or a good writer, or 
remarkable for any striking accomplishment, he might otherwise 
have enjoyed. Having, besides, been born and reared on the red 
clay grounds of the Old Dominion, so celebrated for the production 
of Presidents, it is quite natural that he should, at an early period, 
have come to the conclusion that to be among the successors of Wash- 
ington would not exceed his deserts. That he did not think his own 
pretentions unreasonably postponed by the preference given to Jef- 
ferson, his senior in years and whose claims upon the confidence and 
favor of his country were incomparably superior to his own, I can 
well imagine. But it became a very different affair when the day 
arrived for the choice of Mr. Jefferson's successor, and when the 
dwellers on the red soil could hardly believe it possible that the 
other portions of the Union would be sufficiently self-denying to 
acquiesce in any further selections from that already highly favored 
spot. It is well known that Mr. Monroe's feelings were deeply 
soured by the choice of Mr. Madison for the succession through the 
influence of Mr. Jefferson — not seen or heard or exerted by improper 
means but not the less effectual. The celebrated Protest of John 
Randolph and his associates, — for a long time distinguished by the 
cognomen of "the Protesters," — was made in the interest of Mr. 
Monroe, and long and bitter were their denunciations of the latter 
for accepting office under Mr. Madison. Jefferson and Madison, 
placable, just and sincere, were doubtless desirous that their neigh- 
bour and friend with whom they had long been associated in the 
public service, and whom they respected and esteemed, should enjoy 
the same high distinction which had been conferred on themselves, 
if that could be effected without doing violence to the feelings of the 
rest of the country. But, with the exception of a single act, they 
trusted the result to the well known and oft experienced partiality of 
the Republican Party for the distinguished men of the Ancient Do- 
minion. The office of Secretary of State had become a stepping 



122 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

stone to the Presidency, so much so that Mr. Clay, at a subsequent 
period and in an unhappy moment, spoke of the selection of Presi- 
dential Candidates from that station as following " safe precedents" 
Mr. Madison had, as has already been said, with that single hearted- 
ness and high sense of justice that formed a part of his character, 
offered the place to Governor Tompkins as a proof of the estimation 
in which he held his patriotic and useful services. 

Gov. Tompkins' declension and the consequent selection of Mr. 
Monroe, in all probability, controuled the question of the succession to 
Mr. Madison. 

I visited Washington during the session and enjoyed good oppor- 
tunities to observe the movements that were on foot. The friends of 
Clay, Lowndes, Calhoun, Cheves and others of less note evidently 
looked to their respective favorites as not yet ready for the course, 
but expected them to become so by the end of Mr. Monroe's term, 
and were unwilling that the place should be pre-occupied by one of 
their contemporaries. Crawford, also, but not so clearly, fell within 
the scope of these considerations. 

Mr. Crawford was by far the strongest of these aspirants, and 
might perhaps have been nominated, if his friends had taken open 
and unqualified ground in his favor. But they were seriously di- 
vided in regard to the policy of such a course. Many of them, in- 
fluenced by an apprehension that decided opposition to v Mr. Monroe 
might be unsuccessful and injurious to Crawford's future prospects, 
were disposed to leave the question to be decided by time and 
chance. 

The nomination of Gov. Tompkins for the Vice Presidency was 
generally favored, and I never understood that he expected or de- 
sired that his friends should attempt to bring him forward for the 
Presidency, nor could any efforts in that direction have been suc- 
cessful. 

Notwithstanding this inaction on the part of rivals, Mr. Monroe 
obtained only a very small majority in the Congressional Caucus ; a 
result not soothing to his feelings. The Republican Party was great- 
ly in the ascendant, and Monroe and Tompkins were elected by a 
large majority. 

The Partv which had raised Jefferson and Madison to the Presi- 
dency elected Mr. Monroe under the expectation that his Adminis- 
tration would be similar in its political aspects to those of his prede- 
cessors. The People of the United States had, during both of 
those Administrations, been divided into two and only two great 
political parties. It is not necessary and would only serve to render 
complex the views intended to be expressed to make any reference 
here to the particular character and tendency of their conflicting 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OP MARTIN VAN BUREN. 123 

principles. For the present it needs only to be stated that in the ranks 
of one or the other of these parties were arrayed almost all the Peo- 
ple who took an interest in the management of public affairs. These 
differences were first developed in Congress and in Society during 
the last term of Gen. Washington's administration, had a partial 
and comparatively silent influence in the election of his successor, 
but were openly proclaimed and maintained with much earnestness 
during that successor's entire administration. The result of this 
conflict of opinions was the expulsion of John Adams from the office 
of President and the election of Thomas Jefferson in his place. Not 
intolerant by nature Mr. Jefferson made an ineffectual effort to allay 
the warmth of these party differences and to prevent them from in- 
vading and poisoning the personal relations of individuals. But, 
true to his trust, he not only administered the government upon the 
principles for which a majority of the People had shown their pref- 
erence, but he carried the spirit of that preference into his appoint- 
ments to office to an extent sufficient to establish the predominance of 
those principles in every branch of the public service. This he did, 
not by way of punishing obnoxious opinions, or to gratify personal 
antipathies, but to give full effect to the will of the majority, sub- 
mission to which he regarded as the vital principle of our Govern- 
ment. Mr. Madison, elected by the same Party, tho' proverbial for 
his amiable temper and for the absence of any thing like a prescrip- 
tive disposition, pursued the same course, and upon the same prin- 
ciple — the performance of a public trust in regard to the tenjis of 
which there was no room for doubt. 

The Administrations of Jefferson and Madison, embracing a period 
of sixteen years, were, from first to last, opposed by the federal 
party with a degree of violence unsurpassed in modern times. From 
this statement one of two conclusions must result. Either the con- 
duct of these two parties which had been kept on foot so long, been 
sustained with such determined zeal and under such patriotic pro- 
fessions and had created distinctions that became the badges of 
families — transmitted ° from father to son — was a series of shame- 
less impostures, covering mere struggles for power and patronage; 
or there were differences of opinion and principle between them 
of the greatest character, to which their respective devotion and ac- 
tive service could not be relaxed with safety or abandoned without 
dishonor. We should, I think, be doing great injustice to our prede- 
cessors if we doubted for a moment the sincerity of those differences, or 
the honesty with which they were entertained at least by the masses 
on both sides. The majority of the People, the sovereign power 
in our Government, had again and again, and on every occasion 

° MS. I, p. 165. 



124 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

since those differences of opinion had been distinctly disclosed, de- 
cided them in favor of the Republican creed. That creed required 
only that unity among its friends should be preserved to make 
it the ark of their political safety. The Country had been pros- 
perous and happy under its sway, and has been so through our whole 
history excepting only the period when it was convulsed and con- 
founded by the criminal intrigues and commercial disturbances of 
the Bank of the United States. To maintain that unity became the 
obligation of him whom its supporters had elevated to the highest 
place among its guardians. Jefferson and Madison so interpreted 
their duty. On the other hand, Mr. Monroe, at the commencement 
of his second term, took the ground openly, and maintained it 
against all remonstrances, that no difference should be made by 
the Government in the distribution of its patronage and confidence 
on account of the political opinions and course of applicants. The 
question was distinctly brought before him for decision by the 
Republican representatives from the states of Pennsylvania and 
New York, in cases that had deeply excited the feelings of their 
constituents and in which those constituents had very formally and 
decidedly expressed their opinions. 

If the movement grew out of a belief that an actual dissolution of 
the federal party was likely to take place or could be produced by 
the course that was adopted, it showed little acquaintance with the 
nature of Parties to suppose that a political association that had 
existed so long, that had so many traditions to appeal to its pride, 
and so many grievances, real and fancied, to cry out for redress, 
could be disbanded by means of personal fevors from the Execu- 
tive or by the connivance of any of its leaders. Such has not been 
the fate of long established political parties in any country. Their 
course may be qualified and their pretentions abated for a season 
by ill success, but the cohesive influences and innate qualities which 
originally united them remain with the mass and spring up in 
their former vigour with the return of propitious skies. Of this 
truth we need no more striking illustrations than are furnished by 
our own experience. Without going into the details of events fa- 
miliar to all, I need only say that during the very " Era of good 
feelings," the federal party, under the names of federal republicans 
and whigs, elected their President over those old republicans Will- 
iam H. Crawford, Andrew Jackson and John C. Calhoun — have, 
since his time, twice elected old school federalists — have possessed 
the most effective portions of the power of the Federal Government 
during their respective terms, with the exception, (if it was one) of 
the politically episodical administration of Vice President Tyli 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN VAN BURBN. 125 

and are at this time in power in the government of almost every 
free state. We shall find as a general rule that among the native 
inhabitants of each State, the politics of families who were fed- 
eralists during the War of 1812, are the same now — holding, for the 
most part, under the name of Whigs, to the political opinions and 
governed by the feelings of their ancestors. 

I have been led to take a more extended notice of this subject by 
my repugnance to a species of cant against Parties in which too many 
are apt to indulge when their own side is out of power and to forget 
when they come in. I have not, I think, been considered even by 
opponents as particularly rancorous in my party prejudices, and 
might not perhaps have anything to apprehend from a comparison, 
in this respect, with my cotemporaries. But knowing, as all men of 
sense know, that political parties are inseparable from free govern- 
ments, and that in many and material respects they are highly useful 
to the country, I never could bring myself for party purposes to 
deprecate their existence. Doubtless excesses frequently attend them 
and produce many evils, but not so many as are prevented by the 
maintenance of their organization and vigilance. The disposition to 
abuse power, so deeply planted in the human heart, can by no other 
means be more effectually checked ; and it has always therefore struck 
me as more honorable and manly and more in harmony with the 
character of our People and of our Institutions to deal with the sub- 
ject of Political Parties in a sincerer and wiser spirit — to recognize 
their necessity, to give them the credit they deserve, and to devote 
ourselves to improve and to elevate the principles and objects of our 
own and to support it ingenuously and faithfully. 

Two affairs grew out of the agitation of Mr. Monroe's fusion 
policy which from their relation to prominent individuals and the 
developments of character they produced, may be considered of suf- 
ficient interest to be described here. 

In no state in the Union was party discipline in so palmy a condi- 
tion at this period as in New York, and a vacancy about to occur 
in the office of Post Master at Albany, the Capitol of the State, pre- 
sented to the Administration a fitting, if it was not also a desirable 
opportunity for the inauguration of the policy in regard to appoint- 
ments by which it had determined to be governed. 1 Van Rensselaer 
was, notwithstanding, appointed. Among the papers published at 
the time of and in connection with this affair was a letter addressed 

l It had evidently been the Intention of Mr. Van Bnren to give an account of the 
controversy over the appointment of Solomon Van Rensselaer to be postmaster at Albany 
in place of Solomon Southwlck, removed for defalcation. Tbe Federal side is well given 
in Hn. Catharina Van Rensselaer Bonney's " Legacy of Historical Gleanings/' I, 368. — 

W. (*• V» 



126 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION". 

by Vice President Tompkins and myself to the Republicans at Al- 
bany, which contained the following: 

That you will be disappointed and mortified we can readily believe, but we 
trust that you will not be disheartened. While there are no men in this country 
more inured to political sufferings than the Republicans of New York, there are 
none who have stronger reason to be satisfied of the irrepressible energy of the 
Democratic party, and that no abuse of its confidence can long remain beyond 
its reach and plenary correction. 

It would have been impossible at any moment during the admin- 
istrations of Jefferson and Madison, or at any period since that of 
John Quincy Adams, to have comprehended the degree of odium 
brought upon me by this language within the precincts of the White 
House and in most of the circles, political and social, of Washington. 
The noisy revels of bacchanalians in the Inner Sanctuary could not 
be more unwelcome sounds to devout worshippers than was this peal 
of the party tocsin in the ears of those who glorified the " Era of 
Good Feeling." 

Whilst this excitement was at its highest point I took a trip to 
Richmond, Virginia, and visited Spencer Roane whom I had never 
seen but long known, by reputation, as a hearty and bold Republican 
of the old ° School. I found him to my great regret on a bed of sick- 
ness, from which, although he lived some time, he never rose. But 
in all other respects he was the man I expected to meet — a root and 
branch Democrat, clear headed, honest hearted, and always able and 
ready to defend the right regardless of personal consequences. He 
caused his large form to be raised in his bed, and disregarding the 
remonstrances of his family he insisted in talking with me for sev- 
eral hours. He at once referred to the Albany Post Office Question, 
told me that he had read all the papers in the case and thought that 
we were perfectly right in the grounds we had assumed. He con- 
demned in unqualified terms the course pursued by Mr. Monroe, 
spoke freely of past events in his career, and of his apprehensions 
that he would, if elected, be governed by the views he had avowed. 

Mr. Roane referred, with much earnestness, to the course of the 
Supreme Court, under the lead of Chief Justice Marshall, in under- 
mining some of the most valuable clauses of the Constitution to sup- 
port the pretensions of the Bank of the United States, and placed 
in my hands a series of papers upon the subject from the Richmond 
Enquirer, written by himself over the signature of Algernon Sidney. 

On taking my leave of him I referred to the manner in which he 
had arranged the busts of Jefferson, Madison and Monroe in his 
room, and said that if there had been anything of the courtier in his 
character he would have placed Mr. Monroe, he being the actual 
President, at the head instead of the foot. He replied with empha- 

• MS. I, p. 170. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIK VAN BUREN. 127 

sis, " No ! No ! No man ranks before Tom Jefferson in my house ! 
They stand Sir, in the order of my Confidence and of my affection 1 " 

The other matter to which I allude as an incident of the history 
of the fusion scheme, was a Pennsylvania affair. Mr. Monroe and 
his cabinet appeared to have determined to take the bull by the 
horns — a plan worthy of the strength and standing of the members 
who abetted his favorite policy. New York and Pennsylvania were 
not only the largest and most influential states in the Union, but 
also, perhaps, the most devoted to the maintenance of existing polit- 
ical organizations, and especially did this sentiment prevail in the 
Western Judicial District of Pennsylvania, 

If the republicans of those States could be seduced or forced into 
an acquiesence in the fusion policy, there would have been the best 
reason to anticipate its success everywhere. A vacancy occurring in 
the office of Marshal for the Judicial District referred to presented 
a fair opportunity for a display of the Administration scheme in re- 
gard to appointments, parallel to that of the Albany Post Office. A 
man by the name of Irish — an out and out federalist — was one of 
the Candidates. His application was of course earnestly opposed 
by the republicans, and proofs of their opposition in the shape of 
protests from the members of the state Legislature and from State 
officers, from their Representatives in Congress and from private 
persons innumerable, were laid before the President, but without 
avail. Irish was nominated to the Senate and the nomination was 
confirmed. Although I happened not to have opened my lips on 
the question of the passage of this nomination in secret session, yet, 
as it was generally my lot to be held on such occasions justly or un- 
justly to some measure of responsibility, my quasi friend David B. 
Ogden circulated a report that I had made a most violent and Jacob- 
inical speech against it, and thus disturbed the sensibilities of my 
personal friends among the federalists, of whom I always numbered 
many. Mr. Ogden was a sound lawyer and possessed a vigorous 
intellect, but although an amiable man naturally, he was a violent 
politician and liable to " welcome fancies for facts " in matters hav- 
ing partizan relations. 



CHAPTER XI. 

Before I enter upon the engrossing subject at Washington, during 
Mr. Monroe's last term, to wit, the election of his successor, I will 
give a brief account of my senatorial debut. . 

A Bill for the confirmation of the title of Mr. Cox of Philadelphia 
to an extensive territory in Louisiana called the Maison Rouge Tract 
was referred to our Committee. Having from unaffected timidity 
and ° respect for the body of which I was so new a member, with- 
held myself from debate until an advanoed period of the session, I 
determined to make my first appearance on the floor upon this Bill. 
To this end I gave to its merits a thorough examination, and be- 
came satisfied that it ought not to pass. James Brown, an old and 
prominent Senator and lawyer from Louisiana, being an early and 
warm friend of Mr. Cox,* and very decidedly in favor of his claim, 
Mrs. Brown brought to the Senate Chamber several distinguished 
ladies, among whom were Mrs. Cox and Mrs. Johnston, the wife 
of his colleague, (now Mrs. Gilpin, of Philadelphia) to hear her 
husband's speech. 

It being my business as Chairman of the Committee to open the 
matter to the Senate, and to state the objections to the Bill, I rose 
for that purpose, and very soon met with a regular " break down " — 
as such catastrophes to young speakers are called. However strange 
it may appear in view of my previous public and professional career, 
it is nevertheless true that timidity in entering upon debate in every 
new situation in which I have been placed, and consequent embarrass- 
ment in its first stages, have been infirmities to which I have been 
subject in every period of my life. Finding that I could not pro- 
ceed I made my retreat with as good a grace as possible and resumed 
my seat. 

Mr. Brown was a respectable, tho' not, in my estimation, a very 
strong man. He had been long at the bar in Louisiana, where the 
lands in question were situated, was familiar with the Civil Law — 
which was in force there — with the laws and ordinances of the 
Colonies and the Statute laws of the State, all of which had a bear- 
ing upon the validity of this title, and was withal an easy speaker, 
plausible in his manner and much inclined to sarcasm. I can never 
forget either the triumphant air with which he threw himself into 

• MS. I, p. 176. 
128 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN VAN BUREN. 129 

the debate, or the irritating condescension with which he explained 
the causes of my failure. This he did by enlarging upon the differ- 
ence in the legal systems of Louisiana and New York, particularly 
in respect to the prevalence of the Civil law, and by obligingly 
expressing his confidence that if the question had arisen in my own 
section of the country I would doubtless have done it fuller justice — 
only regretting that I should have allowed myself to make up so 
confident an opinion against so valid a claim without a better 
understanding of its merits. He then proceeded in a long discus- 
sion of the points involved in the claim; but he had done more to 
prejudice the passage of the Bill in his opening remarks than his 
subsequent argument, able as it undoubtedly was, could remedy. He 
had totally extinguished the timidity by which my capacities had 
been for the moment paralyzed, and had excited in its place a glow 
of feeling and an anxiety for the reply which public speakers will 
appreciate. He soon perceived the mischief he had done, and which 
the vote confirmed in the rejection of the Bill by a large majority, 
altho 9 it had passed the Senate at a previous session with only six 
votes against it. 

When I resumed my seat Father Macon, 1 as he was called in the 
Senate, came to my place and shaking me cordially by the hand, 
thanked me for the service that I had rendered to the public, and 
said he had always believed the matter to be af dishonest concern. 
The Bill to confirm the title having thus failed, another was intro- 
duced, or the old one modified to make it a Bill granting leave to 
implead the United States and to try the question at law. So 
bad had the character of the claim become in consequence of this 
discussion that it failed* even in that form. It was with the Judi- 
ciary Committee an annual visitor, acted upon at almost every ses- 
sion and invariably rejected. The Committee were at one time 
nearly or quite unanimous against it; changes in its members, per- 
sonal influence and solicitations of the worthy claimant and his 
numerous friends, and those various considerations which are often 
successfully brought to bear on the decision of Congress in regard 
to private claims, after a time brought me into a minority in the 
Committee, but not in the Senate. In the session of 1827-S, when 
I had reason to expect that my friends would takef me from the 
body, I told my friend, Mr. Seymour, of Vermont, 2 a member of 
the Committee, who was in favor of the Bill and had charge of it, 
and who had made a report in its behalf, that I had a presentiment 
that I should die before the next session, and submitted to him the 
expediency of deferring the action of the Senate upon it until that 
period. Understanding my meaning he adopted my suggestion. 

1 Nathaniel Macon of North Carolina. * Horatio Seymour. 

127483°— vol 2—20 9 



180 AMEBIOA2T HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

Twenty-six years have since elapsed, and the claim has been 
through that period and I learn now still is the subject of legal in- 
vestigation. 

The late Mr. Cox, the claimant, a worthy citizen of Philadelphia 
with some peculiarities in his disposition, retained to a very late 
period his dislike towards me on account of my persevering and ob- 
stinate opposition. I remember on one occasion meeting him on 
board of a steamboat when he was not a little amazed at my civil 
salutation, and while I was President he called at the White House 
and, in a manner somewhat confused, told me that he called to dis- 
charge what he regarded as the duty of every citizen — to pay his 
respects to the Chief Magistrate of the country. I thanked him as 
President, and added in the kindest spirit that I had allowed myself 
to hope that other feelings might have formed a part of his induce- 
ments, but that it was not for me to quarrel with his motives, so 
long as they were of so justifiable a character. This interview en- 
tirely removed the asperity of his feelings, and when I visited Phila^ 
delphia after my retirement and a short time before his death, he 
evinced towards me the most cordial friendship. 

The reappointment of Mr. King did not, in its consequences, I am 
inclined to think, realize the anticipations of either of us. It is not 
possible that any such proceeding could have been freer from pre- 
concerted arrangement or intrigue of any description. I am quite 
sure that I never exchanged a previous word with Mr. King upon 
the subject of his appointment, or that I required or received any 
assurance or intimations from his friends or from anybody else 
in regard to his political action if appointed. He was therefore 
at perfect liberty to pursue any course his conscience dictated, so 
far as we were concerned. Yet I must admit that I expected in view 
of the general condition of the country in regard to party politics, 
and the changes that had taken place in his own relations with his 
party, in consequence of the patriotic course he had pursued in re- 
spect to the War after the destruction of the Capitol, to find in him 
a disposition to look with more complacency on the success of demo- 
cratic measures and democratic men than proved to be the case. 

But I did not allow, this to excite in my breast any unkind feel- 
ings towards him. He was, altho' yet in the full possession of his 
faculties, between twenty five and thirty years my senior — had oc- 
cupied with distinguished credit a succession of high public sta- 
tions, and might be disposed, with good motives and friendly views, 
to turn to my advantage the stores of knowledge and experience 
he had acquired. So long as the means te employed were unexcep- 
tionable and his efforts to turn my mind to conformity with his own 

• MS. I, p. 180. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN VAN BTTBEN. 131 

were conducted with becoming delicacy, I could not be annoyed by 
them — and he shewed himself incapable of acting otherwise. 

I arrived at Washington almost without a preference between the 
Candidates for the succession, save that I was strongly inclined to 
regard Mr. Adams as excluded by the political bias and opinions 
by which I thought he would be governed. Both Mr. Clay and Mr. 
Calhoun were personally more agreeable and prepossessing in their 
manners, and I regarded Mr. Crawford, from our first acquaintance, 
as an honest and true man — an opinion which I never found reason 
to change. His friends seemed more anxious to preserve the unity 
of the Republican party, and on that account I imbibed an early in- 
clination to give him the preference. But feeling that I was not 
acting for myself alone, but for many confiding friends at home, I 

deferred coming to a conclusion upon the subject until I could have 
an opportunity to advise with them during the recess. 

Mr. King and myself made our approaches to Washington, in the 
succeeding fall, very leisurely — remaining some days at Philadelphia 
and also at Baltimore. We were treated with much kindness at 
both places and spent our time very agreeably. • The Presidential 
Question was introduced by him in the course of our journey, and 
discussed on his part in our daily walks, and on most occasions not 
otherwise pre-occupied, ' with much earnestness. He spoke hand- 
somely of Mr. Crawford and without special disparagement of either 
of the candidates, and placed his preference solely on the ground of 
the influence which the subject of slavery had exerted and was likely 
to exert in future on the administration of the Federal Government. 
In the course of several conversations he spoke of the long periods 
during which the office of President had been held by citizens of the 
slave States and the power they had thus possessed to elevate the 
public men of their own section and to depress others, and he dis- 
cussed their claims to this preponderance — comparing the talents, 
native and acquired, of the People of the different sections, the serv- 
ices, they had respectively rendered toward the establishment of 
our independence, and the extent of their respective interests most 
affected by the action of the Federal Government. He did not re- 
gard Mr. Adams as particularly well adapted to be the leader in 
such an issue, but he was placed in a condition to make him the best 
we had ; he was by no means sanguine in regard to his success — a 
question he thought of inferior importance to the opening of the 
proposed issue, which he firmly believed when once fairly started 
must speedily succeed. 

In the course of these protracted reasonings I acted the part of 
listener rather than that of a contestant. Respect for their source 
and the eloquence and earnestness with which they were made 
secured from me a close and interested attention, but they did not 



132 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

make the desired impression. My opinion was very decided that 
the Southern States had dealt with the subject of slavery, down to 
that period, in a wise and liberal spirit, and that they owed the dis- 
proportionate influence which they had possessed in the Federal 
Government to other causes than to the concentration of feeling and 
effort produced by that interest I was therefore unwilling to give 
so controlling an influence in the Presidential election to the con- 
siderations advanced by Mr. King, and I communicated this conclu- 
sion to him with delicacy and unfeigned respect for his character, 
and we proceeded on our journey without change in our feelings, 
much less in our social relations. 

As I acted at the time on the opinion I have mentioned, and as 
there has subsequently been, in my judgment, a wide departure from 
the policy which then commanded my approval, which has also in 
its turn governed my action, I will here give my views of the matter 
as it then stood, leaving the consideration of the change and its 
consequences to its proper period and place. 

At the time when the oppression of the Mother-Country com- 
pelled our ancestors to resort to arms for the defence of their libera 
ties, the condition of the old Thirteen States was not materially dif- 
ferent, in respect to the institution of Slavery, from that which ex- 
isted at the period of which we are speaking. In those where it still 
exists, it had been so deeply planted as to forbid the hope of seeing 
it eradicated except thro 5 Providential means not then discoverable 
by human intelligence ; whilst in those which are now free from it, it 
had obtained but a slight hold upon the interests or upon the habits 
and feelings of the inhabitants — none that would not be sure to 
yield to wise and prudent legislation. But no obstacle was found 
to arise from the difference in their condition in respect to the ex- 
istence of slavery, to their cordial and devoted union in the struggle 
which, by the blessing of God, resulted in the establishment of our 
national independence. 

No sooner had that great end and aim of all their secrifioes and 
sufferings been accomplished than the leading men — those who 
swayed the councils of the States in which slavery existed and still 
continues to exist, on all sides a race of great and good men — pro- 
ceeded to the consideration of this difference in regard to slavery 
in the condition of the states, and the possible consequences which it 
might in time produce. They took up the subject with earnestness 
and sincerity and with a determination to deal with it justly and 
thoroughly. They foresaw that the day was not distant when slav- 
ery would have ceased to exist in a majority of the states; that its 
abolition would in all probability produce a more rapid increase in 
the population of the non-slaveholding States ; that this would con- 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN VAN BTJREN. 133 

throe in a constantly augmenting ratio; that questions would arise 
as to the relative value of free and slave labor and as to the degree 
of encouragement to which each was entitled, and they apprehended 
that these might lead to invectives against the institution of slavery, 
which the changed condition of States would naturally increase, and 
that in this way the subject itself would come to be regarded as one 
of political power, creating sectional parties and in the end over- 
throwing the glorious fabric which had been raised by the joint 
labors of all, if these sad results were not prevented by timely and 
comprehensive measures. 

They did not apprehend a disposition on the part of their North- 
ern and Eastern brethren to disturb the domestic peace of the States 
in which slavery had long and fixedly existed, by interference with 
the subject within their 'borders. This would have been a desecration 
of the fraternal spirit of the Revolution so gross that their pure 
breasts could not harbor a suspicion of it. They never doubted that 
ample Constitutional protection for the possession and use of this 
portion of their property would be secured to them, and that was all 
that they required. 

The spread of slavery and the increase of slave States was the 
source and the only source from which trouble was apprehended. 

The advance of liberty — the sign under which they had fought and 
by which they conquered — and the growth and maintenance of free 
institutions were the objects of that Revolution from which they had 
just emerged. The existence and continuance of slavery in so many 
of the States was a sad qualification of these noble aims and glorious 
results^— but it was impossible, positively and abolutely impossible to 
avoid it, and its existence was without fault on the part of those who 
had inherited it from ancestors many of whom were as little respon- 
sible for its creation. 

Shall the exceptional feature in the free system about to be organ- 
ized be enlarged? Shall the influence and action of the Federal 
Government be employed for the multiplication of slave States, or 
to discourage their increase ? 

These were the questions that presented themselves to all patri- 
otic and thinking minds before and at the period of the adoption 
of the Constitution; and it is an historical truth, worthy of all 
honor, that the great preponderance of opinion on the part of all 
that was imposing in character and venerable in authority in what 
are still the Slave States was in favor of a course most in harmony 
with the principles of the Revolution — that of discountenancing the 
increase of Slave States. Such men as George Washington, 
Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, George Mason, James Madison 

• MS. 1, p. 186. 



134 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

and other patriotic citizens did not hesitate to express their repug- 
nance to slavery, their regrets at its existence, their desire to see 
it lessened and abolished, if possible, by proper means, and not 
only their unwillingness to contribute to its extension, but their 
readiness to co-operate in proper measures to limit its farther 
spread by the increase of free states. 

They were wise and experienced men and knew that such a sub- 
ject could not be trusted to professions or acts which would be open 
to different constructions, and could only be safely dealt with by 
such measures as must carry conviction to the most prejudiced minds 
because they went directly to the accomplishment of their object 

From such considerations and from such sources issued the Act 
of July 1787 for the government of the North Western Territory. 
By this Memorable Act its author and supporters intended not only 
to provide effectually for the peace and safety of their beloved 
country, but to repel, as far as was in their power, the suspicion of 
their fidelity to the cause of freedom which their enemies had at- 
tempted to fix upon them. Whether we regard the source from 
which it originated, the support it received* on its passage, or its 
efficiency in promoting the great object of its enactment, this Law 
deserves a plqfe in our National Archives side by side with the 
Declaration of Independence and the Federal Constitution. At- 
tempts have been made to deprive Mr. Jefferson of the credit of 
this great measure, as there have been cavillers against every truth 
of history however firmly established. Nothing can be more certain 
than that it was to his master mind that the country is indebted 
for its conception, and to his perseverance in its support seconded 
by the Legislature of Virginia and the old Congress for its com- 
pletion. 

By its provisions the North Western Territory which was, in the 
hands of Virginia, slave territory, was set apart for the creation of 
six new states — the precise number of the slave states then, to all ap- 
pearance, destined to remain such — and it was made an irrevocable 
condition of the cession that slavery should never be tolerated within 
their boundaries. The Executive and Legislative Departments of the 
State of Virginia, and the prominent men of the State, of all parties, 
lent their aid to promote the measure and it passed the old Congress 
by the unanimous vote of the Representatives from the slave-holding 
states. Its adaptation to exigencies of the occasion to the promo- 
tion of the policy of which I have spoken are too obvious to require a 
single remark. It embraced all the vacant territory of the United 
States which was at all likely to be converted into Slave States and 
promised to balance the influence of the irredeemable slave holding 
states in the Federal Councils— leaving the progress of Emancipation 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARXIST VAN BTJBEN. 135 

in the Middle and Northern States to work out a preponderance of 
s free states qualified, to a limited extent, by the new states that might 
be made out of vacant territories still belonging to the States of 
North Carolina and Georgia by divisions of those states. 

The Act was passed but a short time previous to the meeting of the 
Convention * which framed the Federal Constitution and its patriotic 
promoters were not disappointed in the character and extent of the 
influence which a measure so wise and liberal was destined to exert 
upon the other members of the Confederacy. They found them ready 
to secure the citizens of the Southern States in the full enjoyment of 
the rights they claimed as slave holders by adequate constitutional 
guarantees and the Southern members of the Convention reciprocated 
that disposition by their significant consent that the word slavery 
should not be used in the Constitution, and with the exception of the 
members from South Carolina and Georgia they insisted that the 
Slave trade should be forthwith abolished. The prolongation of the 
period for its suppression was, it is well known, the consideration 
given, in pursuance of an arrangement between the members last men- 
tioned and some of our Eastern brethren, for the right in Congress 
to pass Navigation Acts. 

The six new States provided for by the ordinance of 1787 have 
all been admitted into the Union as free States, according to its 
provisions, and have now a representation in the U. S. Senate exactly 
equal to that of the six Slave States of the old Confederacy and a 

representation in the House of Representatives of members to 

members, the present representation of the latter. As late as 

the year 1809, the territory of Indiana, under a momentary delusion 
in regard to her best interests, applied to Congress for temporary 
relief from the prohibition of the Ordinance against slavery. The 
petition was referred to a Committee of which John Randolph, dis- 
tinguished for his devotion to Southern rights, interests and feelings, 
was Chairman, reported against promptly and firmly and the report 
acquiesced in with perfect unanimity by his Southern associates. 
Add to all this the Declaratory Act of Congress by which the Slave 
trade was declared Piracy, in the passage of which Southern men 
took the most prominent part, and we have a series of Acts all 
showing the absence of anything like a desire to advance their 
political power by the spread of Slavery or the increase of Slave 
States. 

What subsequent steps have been taken bearing upon the relative 
powers of the slave and free states, before the agitation of the 
Missouri Question, and how far do they afford evidence of a different 
design! 

'Van Buren confused the adoption of the Constitution by the Convention, September 
17, 1787, with the date of convening which was May 14. 



136 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

Tennessee had been cut off from North Carolina — made a State 
and admitted into the Union as had been the case with Vermont and 

i 

Maine taken from the states of New York and Massachusetts. Geor- 
gia had oeded her vacant lands to the Federal Government for a 
stipulation to be relieved from the occupation of certain Indian 
tribes, out of which lands the states of Alabama and Mississippi had 
been carved. The Floridas and Louisiana had been purchased, and 
the state of Louisiana had been admitted into the Union. These 
were all proceedings, except the purchase, anticipated by the acts 
of the Government, and neither they nor the purchase last men- 
tioned afforded indications of a design to increase, or exclusively 
aggrandize the slave interest or power, nor were they at the periods 
when they occurred, to my knowledge, objected to on that ground. 
It may have been otherwise in respect to Louisiana, on the part of 
some of our Eastern people, but their objections were not very ear- 
nestly insisted on. These purchases were not in contemplation when 
thd Ordinance of 1787 was passed. The settlement of the Valley of 
the Mississippi made the acquisition of the Mouths of that Biver 
a state necessity which could not be disregarded or much longer 
delayed without hazarding the peace of the Country or the sta- 
bility of the Union. The admission of Louisiana as a slave state 
necessarily resulted from the stipulations in favor of the inhabi- 
tants which the treaty unavoidably contained. I firmly believe that 
if Mr. Jefferson had thought it practicable to acquire the territory 
and to obtain its admission as a State without such stipulations, he 
would have made the attempt. His whole course upon the subject 
of slavery warrants this opinion. If the existence of slavery in the 
state was an insuperable objection with the Northern states they 
had only to withhold their assent from the treaty and the whole 
proceeding would have fallen to the ground. But the paramount 
necessity for the purchase banished that consideration from their 
minds, if it existed there to any considerable extent — which in the 
then state of public feeling upon the subject is not very probable. 

The territory was too large for a single state, and a portion of it 
comparatively thinly settled, but by a congenial population, was set 
off as a separate Territory by the name of Missouri. Eight years 
afterwards the latter applied to be admitted as a state, having in 
the mean time acquired a sufficient number of inhabitants. Having 
grown up as a slave territory under the territorial laws, and her 
people being then, for the most part, slaveholders, Missouri claimed 
to be admitted as a Slave State and had framed her Constitution ac- 
cordingly. On that ground — that is because her constitution recog- 
nized and sanctioned the existence of slavery within her borders — 
her admission into the Union as a state was opposed by large por- 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN VAN BUREN. 187 

tions of the Northern people. This opposition they had the right to 
make. Thinking that it would be for the interest of the new State 
that she should be free, and thinking also that from the smallness 
of her population, and the limited number of slaves within the terri- 
tory — even now not large — the State would find not more difficulty 
in relieving itself from the existence of slavery than many of the 
Northern states had experienced, they had a right to press those 
considerations upon the applicant by all fair and proper means. 
If the unbiased opinion of Missouri could now be obtained I should 
not be surprised to find it one of regret that she had not yielded to 
that opposition and made herself a non-slave holding state. 

The opposition that was made to the admission of Missouri takes 
its character from the motives by which it was actuated and the 
manner in which it was conducted. That opposition was unexcep- 
tionable where it arose from an honest conviction that the pre- 
vious abolition of slavery within her territory would be advan- 
tageous to her, and that the admission of more slave states into the 
Union would be adverse to its welfare, and where no improper means 
were employed to carry out these views; but where it was, on the 
oontntry, the fruit of an outside policy — where the principal design 
was to produce political and partisan effect by seizing on the ques- 
tion as an opportunity to bring the politics of the slave states and 
the standing of their supporters in the free states into disrepute 
through inflammatory assaults upon the institution of slavery, which 
we are under constitutional obligations to respect in the states where 
it exists, — the opposition was culpably factious. Disguise the mat- 
ter as we may such agitation must, in the light of reason and jus- 
tice, be regarded as alike offensive to the spirit and derogatory to 
the memories of the Revolution. If our participation in the pro- 
tection which the Federal Constitution extends to the institution 
of slavery had become intolerable to us, and we had satisfied our- 
selves that the interests of humanity would gain more by our re- 
lease from that obligation than they would 1og6 by a dissolution of 
the Union, there was one way in which we could obtain an honorable 
discharge aiid that was by tendering to our brethren of the slave 
holding states a peaceable and voluntary dissolution of that Union 
which our Ancestors had formed with them under a different state 
of feeling. To hold on to its advantages and at the same time to 
lessen if not destroy through the agency of such agitations, that se- 
curity to their slave property which was one of the principal bene- 
fits promised to them by its adoption, was the reverse of such a 
course. 



• MS. I, p. 190. 



188 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

From all that I saw of it I could not divest my mind that such 
was the intention of the movement against the admission of Mis- 
souri on the part of its leaders. I thought so then — I think so 
still. I feel less embarrassed in speaking of it thus freely because 
I have always admitted my share of the responsibility so far as 
the New York Resolutions went— but no farther. Although I did 
not actually vote for them I allowed myself to be prevented by po- 
litical and partisan considerations, which have been heretofore al- 
luded to, from meeting them by open opposition. 

While it. affords me no satisfaction to say this I would the more 
regret the necessity of this sacrifice to the truth of history if I 
did not also know that at a later period and at a critical period, too, 
for the South the Northern States stepped forward and screened 
her from the assaults of the abolitionists in a manner and to an 
extent that called forth the strongest expressions of approbation 
and thankfulness from the Slave States, with acknowledgment that 
more could not have been done or desired. What return has been 
made for this conduct on our part will be seen in the sequel. All I 
wish is that the simple truth of these matters should be told. 

In confirmation of the statement of my own feelings at the time 
of the Missouri agitation, I now for the first time publish two letters 
written at that period ; one addressed to William A. Duer, recently 
President of Columbia College, — (The letter to Mr. Duer has been 
mislaid.) a zealous and active friend of Mr. King and of his ap- 
pointment as Senator — and the other to Major M. M. Noah, at the 
time Editor of the National Advocate in the city of New York. The 
occasion of the latter epistle and certain circumstances in its history 
have been heretofore related. 1 

Letter to M. M. Noah, Esqr> 

"Hudson Dec. 17, 1819. 

D r Sib 

Your letter has reached me here in the midst of a Circuit and I have but 
time to say a word to you on the Interesting points you speak of. Advise 
Thompson by no means to have such a meeting — it would as yon say set an 
example for Mr. Clinton for which he would give the world. The dire necessity 
to which he will be subjected of resorting to such nominations gaUs him to the 
quick. Such a measure would therefore be intolerable in us, and I am aston- 
ished that any discreet man should dream of it Make yourself perfectly easy 
on the subject of the nomination. If such designs as you speak of exist they 
are perfectly harmless. There is the most unprecedented unanimity on the sub- 
ject among Republicans. Tompkins will be the man unless he himself declines. 
Let the few Individuals who entertain different views talk on, but don't notice 
them in your paper. They will soon be lost in the general mass. I should 
sorely regret to find any flagging the subject of Mr. King In New York. We 

»Page 101 of the Autobiography. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN VAN BUREN. 189 

are committed to his support. It is both wise and honest, and we must have no 
fluttering in our course. The Republicans of the State expect it and are ready 
for it I know that such is the case. There was not in the Senate a dissenting 
voice that I could find. Mr. King's views towards us are honorable and cor- 
rect The Missouri Question conceals so far as he is concerned no plot and we 
shall give it a true direction. You know what the feelings and views of our 
friends were when I left New York, and you know what we then concluded to 
do. My Considerations x &c and the aspect of the Argus will shew you that we 
have entered on the work in earnest We cannot therefore look back. Our 
fair, consistent and manly course has raised our party in the estimation of all, 
and its contrast with that of our opponents has cast much contempt on theirs. 
Let us not therefore have any halting, but come out I beseech you manfully on 
the subject and I will put my head on its propriety." * * * 

At the time of my conversation with Mr. King, the Missouri 
Question had been settled — most of the Candidates were slave-hold- 
ers, and there was scarcely a ripple on the political waters produced 
by slavery agitation. 

It was not surprising that Mr. King and myself should differ upon 
this point as we viewed it from opposite positions. Although not in 
the Country during the administration of the elder Adams and per- 
haps not approving of all its measures, he nevertheless sympathized 
with its conductors and had through life been the political friend 
and associate of its principal supporters. He had regarded its over- 
throw and the election of Mr. Jefferson as national misfortunes. He 
had been in opposition — respectful indeed but not the less decided — 
to the administrations of Jefferson and Madison during the sixteen 
years of their continuance, with the exception of the support he gave 
to the War after the sacking of Washington. With his political feel- 
ings moderated by time and circumstances, he was still, as I found 
upon a nearer approach, on all essential points, the same old fash- 
ioned federalist that he had been from the start. Under a bias so 
potent he was wholly unwilling to allow, indeed incapable of believ- 
ing that the lodgment which Jefferson's political principles had ac- 
quired and was likely to maintain in the minds of the People, in 
preference to those of his own school, was well deserved on public 
grounds, and he was ready to attribute it to the unanimity of the 
slave states caused by the slave interest or by the " black strap " as 
he called it. His feelings against the institution as a philanthropist 
were thus stimulated by the prejudices of the politician, and he was 
by their combined influence induced to embark with so much earnest- 
ness in the Missouri agitation. 

°My feelings were of a very different character. My earliest 
political recollections were those of the day when I exulted at the 

1 Consideration* in favor of the appointment of Bufas King — a pamphlet of 82 pp. 
(Dec., 1819). A copy is In the Toner Collection, Library of Congress. See the long 
extracts published in Holland's Life of Van Bnren (Hartford, 1830), p. 129. 

* M& I, p. 195. 



140 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

election of Mr. Jefferson, as the triumph of a good cause over an 
Administration and Party, who were as I thought subverting the 
principles upon which the Revolution was founded and fastening 
upon the Country a system which tho' different in form was neverthe- 
less animated by a policy in the acquisition and use of political power 
akin to that which our ancestors had overthrown. I had ever since 
regarded the continued success of Mr. Jefferson's policy as the result 
of the superiority of the principles he introduced into the adminis- 
tration of the Government over those of his predecessor, and was sin- 
cerely desirous that they should continue to prevail in the Federal 
Councils. I had not, as I have before stated, sympathized in the Mis- 
souri Agitation because I could not conceal from myself the fact, to 
which all we saw and heard bore testimony, that its moving springs 
were rather political than philanthropies!, and because I thought 
nothing had arisen that would justify us in making the subject of 
slavery a matter of political controversy. 

These conflicting views, coloring all our conversations, soon con- 
vinced us of the parts we were to take in the Presidential election. 
I announced by intention to support Mr.' Crawford soon after my 
arrival at Washington, and Mr. King was, from the beginning, the 
known friend of Mr. Adams. But this difference did not then pro- 
duce the slightest effect upon our social or friendly relations. We 
messed together during the session, and notwithstanding the dis- 
parity in our years, which was still greater between some others of 
our associates and himself, our social intercourse was not only unem- 
barrassed, but so genial and entertaining as to have kept a pleasant 
and lasting place in my memory. 

A circumstance occurred in the succeeding recess affecting me per- 
sonally that served to draw forth his friendly regard. Chief Jus- 
tice Thompson, having been transferred to the Navy Department, 1 
disposed to testify his sense of the intimate relations that so long 
existed between us, inquired of me by letter whether I would accept 
the office of Judge on the bench of the Supreme Court of the United 
States, to supply the vacancy caused by the death of Brockholst Liv- 
ingston. My impression, upon receiving the letter, was decidedly 
against the acceptance of the offer, but on mentioning the subject to 
Mr. King he took very earnest ground in favor of my accepting it, 
and begged me not to decline, as it was my intention to do imme- 
diately, until we could give the subject a fuller consideration. At 
subsequent interviews he prevailed upon me to consent to the ap- 
pointment Having felt myself called upon to oppose an Act of 
Mr. Monroe's administration in regard to an appointment in which 
a large portion of my constituents was interested, I informed the 

1 Smith Thompson transferred In April, 1828. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY 07 MARTIN VAN BUREN. 141 

Secretary that if the President was disposed to confer the office upon 
me I would accept it, but I was desirous that it should be understood 
as having been done exclusively on public grounds, as I had no desire 
for the position and could not consent to be regarded as an appli- 
cant for it. Mr. King wrote of his own accord to Mr. Adams, who 
took a friendly part in the matter. 

From some source * which I never perfectly understood obstacles 
were thrown in the way of the appointment and considerable delay 
intervened. An expression in one of the Secretary's letters induced 
me to repeat my request that in whatever he said or did in the mat- 
ter, I relied upon his friendship to prevent me from appearing be- 
fore the President as an applicant for the office. After a while I 
received a letter from him asking me whether, after what had hap- 
pened between us, I thought he could with propriety take the office 
himself. Mr. King had taken much interest in the subject and was 
much displeased with the conduct of Secretary Thompson. He 
thought I ought to leave him to his own course ; but feeling best sat- 
isfied with an avoidance of the appointment, I wrote to him at once 
absolving him from any obligation to myself and advising him to 
take the place, for which, by the way, he was as eminently qualified 
as he was unfit for political life. 

Now, altho' I was very sensible that one inducement with Mr. 
King, on this occasion, was a willingness to withdraw me from the 
Presidential canvass, I was yet perfectly satisfied that he sincerely 
thought the appointment a desirable one, and that it could not be 
otherwise than beneficial to me to accept it. I was not therefore dis- 
posed to undervalue the zealous and friendly part that he took in 
the matter, because his success would favor other objects in which 
he felt an interest and which he was quite justifiable in seeking to 
advance by such means. 

•On referring to my correspondence with Secretary Thompson, to which I could not 
have access when the above was written, I find that, previously to the offer of his in- 
fluence in obtaining the Judgeship for me, he had solicited in his straight forward way 
my support of himself for the Presidency, and had become not a little impatient of my 
silence. This circumstance, which, from the slight Impression that It made on me, had 
altogether escaped from my memory, may throw some light upon the course and dis- 
position of the judicial appointment after it was ascertained that my Inclinations In 
regard to the Presidential Question were not in that direction. I cannot say that I 
have at this moment any decided opinion as to the source from whence the obstacles 
arose which prevented my appointment. The correspondence which accompanies this 
Memoir will be found to possess Interest from the light it throws upon the ways of men 
and of several distinguished individuals in particular. I have myself fancied on read- 
lag It now that I could discover traces of views and feelings on the part of others 
which from the unsuspicious character of my mind did not occur to me at the time. 



CHAPTEK XH. 

° My notice of the Presidential election of 1824r-5 will be confined 
mainly to the State of New York. An unforeseen occurrence gave 
the principal part of her electoral rote to Mr, Adams, and an acci- 
dental circumstance, bearing upon that vote, turned the question 
finally in his favor in the House of Representatives. 

By the law of the State, passed at a very early period, the Electors 
of President and Vice President were directed to be appointed by 
the Legislature. The election of members of the latter body in 1823 
was held with direct reference to the Presidential question and re- 
sulted in the choice of a very decided majority supposed to be and 
which was, at the time, favorable to the election of William H. 
Crawford. The friends of the other Candidates, recognizing their 
defeat, demanded a second trial. A transaction something like this 
occurred in 1800 — the object being to defeat Mr. Jefferson. After 
a Legislature had been chosen known to be favorable to him an ap- 
plication was made to Gov. Jay (as appears from his Life, by his 
son,) by a prominent federalist, to call the old legislature, whcee time 
had not expired, to choose the Presidential electors, which Mr. Jay 
very properly refused to entertain. 

The movement now made was of a far more plausible character. 
It was demanded that the Electors should be chosen by the People, in- 
stead of being appointed by the Legislature, as had been the pre- 
vious usage and as the existing law directed. The unreasonableness 
of this demand under the circumstances was apparent, but its rejec- 
tion was nevertheless a matter of great delicacy. It was an awkward 
affair for a party which prided itself on being most in favor of em- 
ploying the direct agency of the People in the conduct of public 
affairs, to refuse such an application when there was yet time enough 
to accede to it and to carry it into effect. It seemed, at least, in thus 
refusing, to place itself in a false position. Our opponents pressed 
this view of the subject with much earnestness and considerable 
influence. But I have never doubted that we would have been able 
to sustain ourselves before the country if it had not been for a very 
unexpected and badly advised step taken by our friends at the mo- 

* MS. Book II, p. 1. 
142 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN YAK BUREN. 148 

meni when the Legislature adjourned to the Extra-session for the 
choice of electors. 

Gov. Clinton had listened to the advice of his friends and had 
avowed his determination not to be a candidate for re-election — his 
chance of success being regarded by them as hopeless. He did not 
lack troops of devoted personal adherents, but his failure to main- 
tain his position in the favor of the People, under the auspicious 
circumstances which had attended his public service, even when 
strengthened by the complete success of the Erie Canal — a measure 
to which his name was so closely and meritoriously linked — induced 
them to think that he did not possess the faculty of making himself 
generally and permanently acceptable to the People under any state 
of affairs. They had therefore employed themselves in. looking for 
an office or employment for him which would be adequate for his 
support, of sufficient dignity and independent of the popular vote. 
He had confessedly done more than any other man to secure the suc- 
cess of the great Public Work to which I have referred. The office 
of President of the Canal Board which had been conferred on him 
at an early day had no salary attached to it nor did he receive any 
compensation for his services. Having the best right to be regarded 
as the founder of the Work, that post as a mark of distinction only, 
without reference to his usefulness in the performance of its duties, 
was justly due to him. 

Such being the state of things Mr. Clinton was removed by a vote 
of the Legislature, on the last day of the session, 1 without notice or 
specific complaint. 

It has been truly said that this removal " operated like an elec- 
tric shock upon the whole community." It secured to Mr. Clinton 
a full measure of what he had never before possessed — the sympa- 
thies of the People. The friends of Mr. Adams, generally, in the 
Legislature and their leaders Wheaton and Tallmadge 2 voted for the 
removal, but we had the majority — the motion came from our side— 
and ours was the responsibility. 

A public meeting was forthwith held at the Capitol, at which the 
measure was severely denounced. Similar meetings followed in 
every part of the State, and an excitement in the public mind was 
produced which disinclined it to receive dispassionately the ex- 
planations of our conduct in refusing to pass the electoral law. Our 
excuses for declining to fight a battle over again that we had once 
fairly won, which, but for this disturbing question would have been 
favorably heard by the majority, would not be listened to by an 
irritated community. 

* April 12, 1824. — W. C. F. * Henry Wheaton and James Tallmadge. 



144 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

Mr. Clinton's re-election to the office of Governor was the redress 
that instantaneously presented itself to the minds of the masses. 
The people's party" — a temporary faction generated by the re- 
fusal of our friends to pass the Electoral law and most of whose mem- 
bers in the Legislature had voted for his removal — could not pie- 
vent his nomination at a State Convention in the call of which they 
had united. The current of public feeling, overwhelmingly in his 
favor, carried him in by the largest majority ever given in the 
state. So violent was the excitement that when I, to whom the 
removal had occasioned much regret and who had no knowledge, 
being in Washington, of the intention to make it, made my appear- 
ance at the polls the shout of " Regency ! Regency ! " was raised by 
the crowd and my vote was challenged by some dozen persona The 
efforts sincerely made by the Board of Inspectors and by some of 
Mr. Clinton's most attached friends to get the challenge withdrawn 
were ineffectual, and I was obliged to take the prescribed oath. The 
first returns from the Western Counties were astounding, but at a 
meeting of a few friends, held at my lodgings, we canvassed the 
State and still claimed success. On the following morning, how- 
ever, my excellent friend Judge Roger Skinner came into my room 
and furnished me with returns shewing that we had been, as I have 
stated, completely routed. 

A feeling of bitter personal hostility towards Gov. Clinton — 
foreign to his generous nature, but for which he thought he had 
adequate grounds — had made Judge Skinner more instrumental in 
accomplishing the removal of Mr. Clinton than any other of our 
friends. Knowing that if informed of the design I would have 
done what I could to prevent it, he took especial pains to keep it 
from me and laughed at the apprehensions I expressed on being in- 
formed of the act. He was standing at the window, tapping the 
glass with his fingers, whilst I was taking my breakfast with what 
° appetite his news had left me. I could not resist saying to him — 
14 1 hope, Judge, you are now satisfied that there is such a thing 
in politics as killing a man too dead/" an observation sufficiently 
absurd to the general ear, but full of significance and matter for 
painful reflection to him. He left the room immediately without 
saying a word. Conscious that I had wounded him deeply I fol- 
lowed him, to his lodgings, begged his forgiveness with perfect 
sincerity and succeeded in obtaining it. But nothing could soothe 
the pang inflicted on his heart by Mr. Clinton's success and by 
the conviction that he had contributed to it. His health, always 
delicate, gave way, and he died not long after in my apns. He was 
among the worthiest and most valued of my friends, and I long 

• MS. II, p. 5. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN VAN BUREN. 145 

and deeply mourned his loss. He was the second person whose death 
was obviously hastened by grief and mortification at Mr. Clinton's 
success. The other was Judge 1 Crosby, Senator from Westchester 
County, of whom I have already spoken in connection with Mr. Clin- 
ton's nomination three years before. 

To those familiar with the action of public bodies under the in- 
fluence of panic it cannot be necessary to enlarge upon the injuri- 
ous effects produced by these election results, received at the time 
that the Legislature was in session for the sole purpose of appoint- 
ing Presidential Electors. Gen. Peter B. Porter, a sagacious man, 
well versed in political management and, tho' never popular himself, 
very capable of influencing others, was at the head of Mr. Clay's 
friends. His ablest associate and co-worker was John Cramer, a 
veteran politician, who had been one of the Electors at Mr. Jefferson's 
second election, had almost ever since been in public life, lived on 
political intrigue, and having been familiar with legislative corrup- 
tions was consequently well acquainted with the worst portion of the 
members and the ways by which they might be operated upon. Fol- 
lowing the example of their Principal their first step was to prevent 
a Caucus, in which, if its decision was adhered to, we would have 
been entirely safe. In this step they would not have succeeded but 
for the fact that the election had deprived us of the prestige which 
the long possession of power had given us. They coalesced with the 
friends of Mr. Adams, and this union enabled them to hold out rea- 
sonable expectations of a share in the favors of the new Government 
to members friendly to Mr. Crawford. The two sections made a 
regular bargain for the division of the Electoral ticket and succeeded, 
but so close was the vote that only thirty-two electors out of •thirty- 
six were chosen on the first ballot. On the second ballot four of our 
ticket were elected, by which result Mr. Clay was excluded from the 
House of Representatives and Mr. Crawford's name was returned 
to it as one of the three highest. 

We had formed our ticket upon a principle that brought on it 
several of Mr. Clay's supporters, equal in number to the share they 
were to have under their arrangement with the friends of Mr. Adams, 
and four of these were lost. Although I did not suspect it at the 
time, I had reason subsequently to believe that these were intention- 
ally lost from a desire on the part of the Adams men to exclude Mr. 
Clay from the House. 

Our Governor in office, Judge Yates, and our new candidate for 
that station at the election, Col. Young, — two very honest men but 
impracticable politicians, — did each their part in breaking down the 

1 Darius Crosby. 
127483°— vol 2—20 10 



146 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

party by which the one had been and the other hoped to be elected. 

I have already alluded to. the unfounded prejudices in regard to 
myself which had unhappily been created in the breast of the former. 
These were not removed in the Recess, and I left home for Washington 
in December, 1823, in the full "belief that we were destined to en- 
counter his opposition upon the Presidential question in the shape 
of the recommendation, in his second Message (January 1824) to 
alter the mode of appointing electors, 1 and I remained under that 
impression until I heard that document read under the following 
circumstances. 

My colleague, Mr. King, resting confidently upon the almost uni- 
versal impression that such must be its character, manifested more 
curiosity for its arrival than I either shewed or felt. It was brought 
to us at the close of our mess dinner at which were present our 
mutual friends Gen. Stephen Van Rensselaer, Messrs. Andrew Steven- 
son, Louis McLane & others. Mr. King immediately proposed that 
it should be read aloud, And Mr. Stevenson was, I think, designated 
as the reader. Mr. King folded his handkerchief on the table before 
him and resting his arms upon it, as was his habit, his complacent 
countenance indicated the confidence and satisfaction with which he 
prepared himself to hear the welcome tidings. The ordinary topics 
of the Message were run over hurriedly until the reader came to the 
interesting subject of the choice of electors, when, to the amazement 
of all, we were favored with a string of generalities studiedly am- 
biguous, but susceptible of only one interpretation which was that in 
his Excellency's opinion it would be better to leave the law as it 

» The paragraph In the Governor's message read as follows : 

" The choice of electors of president and vice-president, has excited much animadver- 
sion throughout the nation ; and It is to be regretted, that a uniform rule on this sub- 
ject la not prescribed by the constitution of the United States. It is manifest, that 
tho manner of electing may have an essential effect on the power and Influence of a 
state, with regard to the presidential question, by either dividing the votes, or enabling 
the state with greater certainty to give an united vote ; and until a uniform rule is In- 
grafted In the constitution of the United States, the manner of electing will continue to 
fluctuate, and no alteration made by any one state will produce a material change in 
the various modes now existing throughout the union. In some states the people will 
vote by a general ticket ; in some by districts, and in others by the legislature ; and no 
practical remedy probably does exist, competent to remove the evil effectually, except by 
an amendment to the national constitution. 

"Although this state has heretofore sanctioned an attempt to accomplish that im- 
portant object, which proved unsuccessful, the measure on that account should not be 
abandoned ; and as the subject has recently been brought before congress. It is to be 
expected that another opportunity will shortly be presented for the legislature of this 
state to sanction an amendment, not only establishing a uniform rule in the choice of 
electors, but also securing the desirable object of directing such choice to be made by 
the people. A more propitious period of evincing its propriety and consequently afford- 
ing a more favorable prospect of obtaining a constitutional number of the states to 
assent to It I am inclined to think has not presented itself since the organization of 
the government. Persuaded that you as the representatives of a free people, will only 
be influenced by reason and true patriotism, it is submitted to your wisdom and dis- 
cretion, whether, under existing circumstances, the present manner of choosing electors 
ought, at this time, to be changed." — W. C. P. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN VAN BUREN. 147 

stood. A lowering frown chased the smiles from Mr. King's face, 
and being observed by all produced an unpleasant pause, interrupted 
by himself when, turning to me, he said " I think, Mr. Van Buren, 
that Mr. Crawford's friends ought to send the Governor a drawing 
of the Vice President's Chair." I asked for his reason. " Because " 
said he, " I presume they have promised its possession to him." I 
replied with some feeling, but respectfully, that I could not of course 
say what had been promised him by the friends of the other candi- 
dates, but that I was quite sure that Mr. Crawford's friends had 
held out to him no allurements. u I hope so ! " on his part, and " I 
hnow so ! " on mine followed in rapid succession, when he picked up 
his handkerchief and walked out of the room. Mr. King was en- 
titled to credit for his government of a naturally warm temper. We 
saw no more of him that evening nor did he come to the breakfast 
table in the morning, but at night following he pressed me to ac- 
company him to a party given by the French Minister, which I did. 
On our way he said what was proper in regard to the unpleasant 
occurrence of the day before, and at the party he shamed my un- 
proinpt gallantry by dropping on his knee, in my presence, to retie 
her loosened shoe-string for a very interesting young lady — the grand 
daughter of Mr. Jefferson and my warm friend — a duty that his 
greater age should have devolved upon me. 

How Gov. Yates' mind had reached a conclusion so unexpected 
by all of us I never ascertained, fte lost a renomination and before 
I left Washington I had the mortification to see his proclamation 
calling an extra session of the Legislature in August to reconsider 
the subject of the Electoral law. 1 This served to increase the agita- 
tion in the public mind caused by Mr. Clinton's removal but gave 
us little farther trouble, our majority not having then been disturbed 
as it was afterwards by the tornado of Mr. Clinton's election. I 
wrote a communication for the Argus to shew the impropriety of the 
call, and our friends in the Legislature, on the motion of Mr. 2 Flagg, 
resolved that nothing had arisen in the Recess to justify the call under 
the Constitution and adjourned. 

1 In April, 1824, in caucus Yates received only 45 votes and Young CO. The un- 
popularity of Yates was said to have been due to his opposition to an electoral law. 
Hammond writes* (II. 16G) : " He pursuaded himself that the party in favor of that 
measure, which he knew was composed as well of the Clintonians as the people's men, 
were so much divided in opinion about the selection of a gubernatorial candidate, 
that if he were to place himself in an attitude which would enable them with any 
decent regard to consistency to support him as their candidate, in all probability they 
would do so; or If In this view of the case he was mistaken — if he was to come out 
publicly In favor of the measure which had recently excited so much attention — it would 
create such confusion in the ranks of the supporters of Col. Young, as would, in all 
probability, defeat a rival for whom it cannot be supposed he entertained much affection. 
It must have been under some such Impressions, that, contrary to the expectations, and 
to the surprise of all parties, on the 2nd day of June he issued a proclamation requir- 
ing an extra session of the legislature on the 2nd day of August." — W. C. F. 

'Azariah C. Flagg. 



148 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

Gov. Yates 9 future political prospects were by this act totally de- 
stroyed. Col. Young, who obtained the nomination for Governor on 
our side, not aware of Mr. Clay's want of strength with the rank 
and file of the party in the state, allowed himself, in an evil hour, 
to be persuaded to come out with a Card substantially avowing his 
preference for that gentleman's elevation to the Presidency. This 
disgusted the Republicans by thousands and I had great difficulty 
to prevent a meeting at the Capitol to renounce his nomination. 

These antecedent weaknesses and disastrous results were relieved 
by a single amusing feature, and that was the very characteristic 
tho' somewhat irreverent reply of Gov. Yates to his relative, John 
Van Ness Yates, then Secretary of State, who, designing to console 
him in his adversity, said to him, "Well, after all, Governor, one 
thing is true of you that cannot be said of any of your Predecessors. 
You are the only Governor who came in unanimously !" "Yes, John, 
by G — ," was the reply, u and, it may be added, who went out unani- 
mously!" 



CHAPTER XIII. 

I left Albany for Washington as completely broken down a poli- 
tician as my bitterest enemies could desire. On board of the small 
steamer that took us to the larger one that waited for her passengers 
below the overslaugh it was my luck to meet Mrs. Clinton (the Gov- 
ernor's wife) and her brother James Jones, The latter said to me 
whilst we were ° seated at the breakfast table, "Now is the time 
admirably fitted for a settlement of all difficulties between Mr. Clin- 
ton and yourself." I thanked him for his friendly suggestion — the 
sincerity of which I did not in the least doubt — but replied that my 
fortunes were at too low an ebb to be made the subject of a compro- 
mise, and that when they improved a little I would remember his 
generous offer. 

I stopped^at New York only long enough to pay the bets I had lost 
on the State election and then went on for the first time without Mr: 
King. I was dissatisfied with his course in the election, with which I 
had no right to meddle ; but, as I was not in a mood to form a very 
correct estimate of my rights in that regard, I indulged my feelings. 
1 found at New York the good old Patroon Van Kenssalaer, who with 
the Dutch pertinacity and fidelity saw in my distressed political for- 
tunes a reason for sticking to me and insisted on our journeying 
together. At Philadelphia we were overtaken by Mr. King who said, 
in his peculiar way, that he had been enquired of by his servant 
William "why it was that Mr. Van Buren had for the first time 
passed on without calling," and that the only answer he could make 
to William's natural question was that he knew of no reason and did 
not believe that a good one existed. I muttered some civil explana- 
tion that explained nothing and when we reached Washington Messrs. 
Van Kensselaer, Mctane, Cuthbert 1 and myself took a furnished 
house and Mr. King joined a mess at the Hotel; our accustomed 
social relations were, however, in most other respects, maintained. 

The Presidential canvass in the House of Representatives soon 
commenced and was carried on to its close with intense feeling and 
interest. I obtained a meeting of the friends of Crawford in the 
New York delegation and proposed to them in a few remarks that 
we should abstain to the end from taking a part in favor of either 
of the three gentlemen returned to the House — Jackson, Adams or 

" MS. II, p. 10. 

» Stephen Van Rensselaer of New York, Louis McLane of Maryland, and Alfred 
Cuthbert of Georgia. 

149 



150 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

Clay [Crawford]. I assured them that there was no danger that an 
election would not be made by others and that if the friends of Mr. 
Crawford stood aloof from the intrigues which such a . contest 
would produce unavoidably they would form a nucleus around which 
the qld Kepublicans of the Union might rally if the new Administra- 
tion did not act upon their principles as we apprehended would be 
the case. They resolved with perfect unanimity to pursue that 
course, and I do not believe that a single individual of our number 
ever thought of departing from it: certainly not one did so depart. 
Judge Hammond was therefore misinformed in regard to their in- 
tention to vote in any event for Mr. Adams. 1 

On one occasion Francis Johnson, of Kentucky, a prominent sup- 
porter of Mr. Clay, called, by appointment, upon Mr. McLane and 
myself, and in a long conversation endeavoured to prevail upon us to 
unite with the friends of Mr. Clay in making Mr. Adams President. 
Finding us unyielding, and standing with his hand on the door he 
said that with our aid that result could be easily realized and that he 
was not absolutely certain but thought that they could accomplish 
it without our assistance. I stepped to the door and said " I think 
that very possible, but, Mr. Johnson, I beg you to remember what 
I now say to you — if you do so you sign Mr. Clay's political death 
warrant. He will never become President be your motives as pure 
as you claim them to be." He was a light hearted man and not apt 
to take anything gravely, but replied with a sensibility unusual to 
him that I might be right, but yet that he believed they would do 
it and trust to the purity of their intentions for their justification. 
The friends of Crawford lacked but one of being half of the New, 
York delegation, so that the diversion of a single vote from Mr. 
Adams would produce a tie. Gen. Van Rensselaer was, through 
his first wife, a brother-in-law to Gen. Hamilton, and had, at an 
early age, imbibed his dislike to the Adamses. He at no time en- 
tertained the idea of voting for Mr. Adams and communicated his 
views to me at an early period and without reserve. On the morning 
of the Election he came to my room and told me he had some thought 
of voting for Gen. Jackson, and asked me whether it would make any 
difference in the general result, adding that as he had uniformly told 
me that he intended to vote for Crawford he did not think it proper 
to change his determination without letting me know it. I told him 
that as his vote could not benefit Mr. Crawford it was of no im- 
portance to us whether it was given to him or to Gen. Jackson, but 
submitted whether, as his intention was known to others as well as 
myself, there was an adequate motive for subjecting himself to the 
imputation of fickleness of purpose by a change which would pro- 

i Hammond, Political History of New York,. II, 177. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN VAN BUREN. 161 

duce no beneficial result to any one. He reflected a moment and 
then said I was right and that he would adhere to Crawford. When 
he arrived at the Capitol Messrs. Clay and Webster had an animated 
conversation with him in the Speaker's room. The first intimation 
I had of the hesitation they produced in his mind was a message 
from Mr. McLane, through Mr. Archer, 1 that Mr. Van Rensselaer had 
been staggered by the representations of those gentlemen, accom- 
panied by a request that I would come to the House and talk to him. 
I refused to do so on the ground that I had no right to interfere with 
his action in that way ; the communications that had passed between 
him and myself having all been voluntary on his part and the great 
disparity in our ages rendering any attempt to influence him at such 
a moment indelicate and inadmissible. Mr. Archer fully concurred 
in these views, but in a few minutes returned with a request of the 
same character, and from the same source, of increased urgency. I 
consented to go into the House, and if Mr. Van Rensselaer, of his own 
accord, addressed me upon the subject to do what I could to dissuade 
him from the course it was feared he would take. 

As I entered the Chamber Mr. Cuthbert met me and said that it 
was not necessary that I should do anything in the matter, as Mr. 
Van Rensselaer had that moment assured him that he certainly 
would not vote for Mr. Adams on the first ballot. I remained to 
see the voting which took place presently afterwards, and was pained 
to witness Mr. Van Rensselaer's obvious agitation and distress. 
When the votes of the New York delegation were counted it was 
found that Mr. Adams had a majority of one. The vote of the state 
was of course given to him and he was elected. Mr. Van Rensselaer 
at once admitted that he had voted for Mr. Adams and thus changed 
the anticipated result. The excitement was of course very great, 
and I hurried to our lodgings to prevent a breach between him and 
Mr. McLane. I found the General and Cuthbert sitting at opposite 
ends of the sofa, both much excited tho' not a word had passed be- 
tween them. As I entered the former said "Well, Mr. Van Buren, 
you saw that I could not hold out ! " I replied that I had no doubt 
he had done what he conscientiously believed to be right, that was 
enough and I hoped the subject would now be dismissed from our 
minds. I then went to Mr. McLane's room and found him still more 
stirred up and it required the greatest effort on my part and 
a plenary exercise of Gen. Van Rensselaer's amiability to prevent 
a breaking up of our Mess. 

Gen. James Hamilton, of South Carolina, had enquired of me in 
the morning what would be the result of the vote of our state and 
I assured him as I was fully authorized to do, that it would be a 

* WUlSam S, Archer, of Virginia. 



152 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

tie. It had be$n ascertained that one of the Maryland delegation 
would, on the second ballot, vote for Gen. Jackson, and would con- 
tinue to do so. This would cause Mr. Adams' vote to fall short two 
of the number required by the Constitution, and it was confidently 
calculated that rather than submit to a failure to make an election, 
a sufficient? number of his supporters would feel themselves con- 
strained to go for Gen. Jackson, who had received a large plurality 
of the popular vote. This calculation was broken and every hope 
dissipated by Gen. Van Rensselaer's sudden and unforeseen change. 
The excitement caused by it was therefore not surprising. 

I had asked no explanations of the General nor did I intend to 
do so, as I was satisfied he could not give any that it would be 
agreeable to him to make. But an evening or two after the election, 
whilst on our way to visit Mrs. Decatur, 1 he volunteered an expla- 
nation which he did not make confidential but of which I did not 
speak until a long time afterwards, and, to the best of my recollec- 
tion, for the first time to Mr. Clay. He said that after what had 
pa^ed between us he felt it to be due to me that he should explain 
the change in his vote which I had so little reason to expect. He 
then proceeded to inform me that when he arrived at the Capitol 
Mr. Clay invited him to the Speaker's room where he found Mr. 
Webster; that they took the ground that the question of election or 
no election would depend upon his vote : that they portrayed to him 
the consequences that would in all probability result from a disor- 
ganization of the Government, and referred in very impressive 
terms to the great stake he had in the preservation of order from 
his° large estate, and kindred considerations. He said that his mind 
was much disturbed by these views which he had not before re- 
garded in so serious a light, but that he returned to the Chamber 
determined not to vote for Mr. Adams on the first ballot whatever 
he might be induced to do ultimately if their anticipations of a 
failure to make an election should prove to be well founded. He 
took his seat fully resolved to vote for Mr. Crawford, but, before 
the box reached him, he dropped his head upon the edge of his desk 
and made a brief appeal to his Maker for his guidance in the mat- 
ter — a practice he frequently observed on great emergencies — and 
when he removed his hand from his eyes he saw on the floor di- 
rectly below him a ticket bearing the name of John Quincy Adams. 
This occurrence, at a moment of great excitement and anxiety, he 
was led to regard as an answer to his appeal, and taking up the 
ticket he put it in the box. In this way it was that Mr. Adams 
was made President. 

1 Mrs. Stephen Decatur. * MS. II, p. 15. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN VAN BUREN. 153 

When I spent some days with Mr. Clay at Ashland, upon his invi- 
tation in 1842, he rallied me considerably upon the General's vote, 
and spoke of the labor it had cost him to correct the heresies I had 
sown in his mind. Altho' there was, as I have said, no injunction of 
secrecy upon the General's communication and it was not impossible 
that he omitted it to enable me to satisfy my friends in regard to 
his conduct, I yet felt a delicacy in speaking of it on account of its 
peculiar character, and therefore submitted in silence to Mr. Clay's 
pleasantry. Upon his visit to me in 1849, he happened one evening 
to recur to the subject, when I told him that I had on a former 
occasion omitted to place that matter before him in its true light 
from a feeling of doubt in regard to the effect that a true relation of 
the subject might have upon the reputation of a man whom we 
both esteemed so highly, but that upon farther reflection I had come 
to the conclusion that as it would be only strengthened in the point 
upon which his merit was most conspicuous and real, that of sincere 
piety and honesty, I felt that there could be no objection to my giv- 
ing him the General's explanation of his vote in his own words, to 
which he listened with great interest. 

I joined the immense throng at Mr. Adams' house on the day of 
the Inauguration and after paying my respects to him passed on to 
the White House to take leave of the retiring President. I found 
Mr. Monroe literally alone, and was as usual kindly received. I re- 
mained an hour without being joined by a single individual, when I 
parted from him for the last time. Owing to an early and some- 
what excited difference in opinion upon what I could not but regard 
as an unfortunate point in his administration, our relations had 
never been confidential. I nevertheless always respected and es- 
teemed him. Although not possessed of remarkable talents, he passed 
through an almost unequalled number of responsible public employ- 
ments without leaving a stain upon his character. 

Near the close of this session I was pained to witness once more 
the extent to which advancing years had impaired the power of self- 
control for which my worthy colleague had been much distinguished. 
This exhibition was the more distressing on account of the place 
where it occurred. The Society of Shakers, residents of my native 
county, sent to me their petition to Congress praying to be allowed" 
exemption from military services and from other duties which con- 
flicted with their religious faith. I presented the Petition with 
a brief reference to the characters of the petitioners and moved that 
it should be referred to the Committee on the Militia. Mr. King im- 
mediately rose, made for him, a very violent attack on the appli- 
cants, as a band of fanatics, and ended by a motion to lay the 
Petition on the table, adding that it would be but justly treated were 
it thrown under the table. 



154 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

There was something so extraordinary, so unexpected and to all 
present so amazing in his concluding remarks, as they related to 
myself, that they failed to disturb my own temper. I was thus 
enabled to describe very calmly, in reply, the true character and 
condition of the petitioners, — concurring in the condemnation by 
my colleague of their religious views, but giving them credit for 
their charities, their sobriety and their industry, — claiming for them 
the common right to petition Congress for a redress of grievances 
even tho' they were not real, — stating what I considered due to my- 
self in the matter, and concluding with a declaration of my inten- 
tion, for reasons which the Senate would not fail to appreciate, to 
postpone all comments upon the treatment which the petitioners had 
received from my colleague until it should appear that he persisted 
in his opposition to my motion in the spirit which had been exhibited. 
The Senate was evidently relieved by the direction thus given to the 
subject, and after a moment's pause, without farther remarks from 
any quarter, met the motion to commit by an emphatic aye without 
a single negative vote. 

The occurrence produced a suspension of personal intercourse be- 
tween us, but Mr. King's good sense and correct feeling soon put an 
end to it. Within a day of two thereafter he approached me at the 
adjournment of the Senate and proposed to take a seat in my car- 
riage. On our way from the Capitol he expressed his great regret 
on account of the occurrence which I have described, — his strong 
feelings against the Shakers having caused him to overlook what 
was due to myself. He apprised me of his intention to leave Wash- 
ington in a day or two, never again to resume his seat in the Senate, 
and said that he would embrace that opportunity to make his ac- 
knowledgments for the respect and kindness with which I had treated 
him.. He regarded it as a remarkable circumstance that we should 
have passed as opponents thro' so exciting a Presidential canvass as 
that which had just closed without more incidents to disturb our 
feelings and to threaten our friendship than the few which had un- 
happily arisen, and that he owed it to me to say, before we parted, 
how sensible he was that we were in a very great degree indebted 
for that exemption to my amiable disposition and self command; 
and he concluded by pressing me earnestly to pay him a visit on my 
return home after the adjournment. 

I need not speak of the extent to which my feelings were allayed 
by this seasonable and kind explanation. I visited him on my re- 
turn and was received with his usual cordiality. He said that some 
of his friends had told him that I would not keep my promise to 
come to him, but that he understood me better than they did, to 
which I might have added that there were not a few of mine who 



AUTOBIOGKAPHY OF MARTItf VAN BUREN. 155 

censured me for doing so. Some time afterwards I received a letter 
from Mr. King informing me of his acceptance of the Mission to 
England, tendered to him by Mr. Adams. I assured him in reply 
of my gratification that he had found himself in a situation to 
accept a place so honorable and for the duties of which he was so 
well qualified, and wished him very sincerely a successful mission 
and safe return. His health, however, soon failed and in about a 
year he came home an invalid. I called at his home in the city, 
and he directed that I should be admitted, but his old servant William 
informed me that he was very ill and suggested the propriety of 
deferring my visit for a day or two, in which I acquiesced. He grew 
. rapidly worse and shortly after died, and I was thus prevented from 
seeing him again. 

Mr. King's career as a public man, tho' it failed to fulfill the expec- 
tations which were justified by its early promise, was highly distin- 
guished. He was appointed a Senator in Congress by the state of 
Massachusetts as early as 178-, and also a delegate to represent that 
State in the Convention which framed the present Constitution of 
the United States, was made Minister to England by Gen. Washing- 
ton in 1796, and represented the country at that court until the acces- 
sion of Mr. Jefferson to the Presidency, when he requested his recall, 
was twice elected to the U. S. Senate by the state of New York, to 
which he had removed, and was actually one of its representatives in 
that body when he was nominated by Mr. Adams and appointed to 
the English Mission. In politics he was from first to last a federalist 
of the Hamilton school. The only material difference between him 
and his old associates arose from a diversity of sentiment not upon 
any general principle but in regard to the extent to which upon a 
particular occasion and a special question ° their country required an 
intermission of party. He understood too well the working of the 
public mind not to know that, after the sacking of the Capitol by the 
enemy, the War, whatever might have been its previous character, 
must become national, and that those who failed to support it would 
fall under the ban of popular opinion. Viewing the matter in this 
light and moved also by a genuine partriotic impulse he dissented 
from the course pursued by his party in that crisis, arrayed himself 
on the side of his country and zealously sustained the Government. 
This gave him a position in the public estimation which was denied 
to the mass of his former associates and contributed largely to his 
re-election to the Senate. A man of sound sense and good taste, 
having through the greater part of his life associated with eminent 
men, as well in Europe as in his own Country, he had acquired a 

thorough knowledge of what belonged to the proprieties of every 

•^ — — ^ »^ i^— — .» .^— ^— ■ — ~— — — ~-^— — ■ ^^— ■ ■ ■ .■ 

* MS. II, p. 20. 



156 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

situation in which he was placed, and possessing withal a natural 
dignify of manner was well fitted to adorn high public stations. Mr. 
Jefferson, comparing him intellectually with others, spoke of Mr. 
King as a " plausible man." Although I did not consider his mind 
remarkable either for vigor or comprehensiveness, it yet struck me 
that this remark did not do justice to it. Plausible he certainly was, 
but he was also always impressive, at times eloquent and forcible. 
He generally selected one or two of the principal points presented 
by any subject under discussion, and applying to their elucidation all 
the power of his mind, seldom failed to do them ample justice. He 
never attempted what Hamilton scarcely ever omitted to do-^to fol- 
low the subject into all its legitimate bearings and bringing into view 
the collateral issues which sprung out of it and were logically entitled 
to influence its solution, to bend the whole matter to a great point 
most favorable to his argument, — a practice that caused Callender to 
say of him that " he beat his guinea into an acre of gold leaf." If Mr. 
King had attempted this I think he would have failed. 



l. j 



CHAPTER XIV. 

Although far advanced in Federal politics I must not lose sight 
of those of my own state. I will therefore, before I touch upon the 
course of the Adams Administration, notice the most interesting por- 
tions of her political history anterior to the very sudden and la- 
mented death of Gov. Clinton. His prospects were never more 
promising than in the early part of the year 1825. His triumphant 
election as Governor of the largest state in the Union by the greatest 
majority she had ever given to any candidate, produced by a wide 
spread conviction in the public mind that he had suffered great in- 
justice, required only ordinary tact and discretion on his part to en- 
sure a continuing prosperity. The Erie Canal — the success of which 
was his richest source of strength in the state — was completed this 
season, and in the month of November a few days previous to the 
state election, the mingling of the waters of the Atlantic and of the 
Lakes was celebrated through the country lying between them. The 
re-election of Mr. Adams was considered, from his well understood 
want of popularity, highly improbable $ Mr. Clay, by accepting the 
office of Secretary of State, had for the time put himself out of the 
line of competitors for the Presidency ; Mr. Crawford had been with- 
drawn from public life by indisposition; the sanguine efforts in 
behalf of Mr. Calhoun had proved signally abortive, and the lead- 
ing politicians inclined to the opinion that Gen. Jackson's strength 
could not stand the test of a four years exposure to the public scrutiny. 
Under such favoring circumstances it was not surprising that Mr. 
Clinton and his friends should have regarded his chances for the 
Presidency as better than those of any other aspirant, yet strange as 
it may seem, it is nevertheless true that the popular impulse in his 
favor recently so strong was at the time of his great Canal celebra- 
tion already subsiding, and the elaborate demonstrations of joy at 
the completion of that work coldly received by the mass of the 
People. Having, as they considered, justly rebuked the violence of 
his opponents, they seemed disposed to leave his future fortunes to 
his own management and to the course of events. 

I did not accompany the Cortege from Buffalo to New York, but 
joined in the procession at Albany and attended the public dinner 
given on the occasion. My companion, in the former ceremonial, 
was J. W. Taylor, who was a few weeks afterwards chosen Speaker 
of the House of Representatives. Satisfied by my own observation 

157 



158 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION 

• 

and by the accounts I had received from different parts of the state 
that the injurious effects upon the harmony and efficiency of our 
own party by the combined agitation of Mr. Clinton's removal and 
the Electoral question had substantially spent themselves, I replied 
to Taylor's observations in regard to the imposing character of Mr. 
Clinton's position by pronouncing a very confident opinion that we 
should defeat him in the elections for the legislature to be held 
within a few days. He expressed his surprise at my delusion and 
repeated the conversation to Gen. Van Rensselaer. The latter in- 
formed me that he had told the Governor what I had said to Taylor, 
who had assured him that there was but one senatorial district in 
the state in which we stood the slightest chance, and that the ma- 
jority against us in the House of Assembly would be overwhelming. 
Gen. Van Rensselaer was evidently distressed by my confidence in 
a different result for tho' perhaps liking me personally quite as well 
as he liked the Governor, he was on political grounds desirous that 
the latter should be sustained. 

We elected three of the eight Senators, and a decided majority 
in the House of Assembly. Although in this election the Demo- 
cratic party acted in undisguised opposition to Gov. Clinton it is an 
undoubted fact that their prejudices against him had then already 
considerably abated. Their distaste for Mr. Adams — a strong and 
I believe well founded belief that the Governor sympathized in that 
feeling — and the fact that many of the leading friends of Mr. Adams 
in the state and a large proportion of the members elected to the 
Legislature on the same ticket with Mr. Clinton at the election of 
1824, were as hostile to him as they were to us, contributed to that 
change. Informal conferences took place at Albany, during the 
session of the Legislature of 1825-6, between prominent democrats 
and some of the friends of the Governor with a view to bring this 
feeling to practical results. The Governor nominated his connexion 
by marriage, Samuel Jones, always before a zealous Federalist, to 
the office of Chancellor, and the Senate, in which our friends were 
1 largely in the majority confirmed the nomination promptly and 
unanimously. It was expected that he would give an indication that 
lie reciprocated the feelings of returning good will which had been, 
in various ways, manifested, and the nomination of Mr. Redfield 1 
for the office of Circuit Judge was looked to as the proof of such dis- 
position. He was believed to be personally favorable to this meas- 
ure, but there was a lion in his path. Although he had obtained his 
election by temporary secessions from the democratic ranks the great 
body of his supporters was composed of the remains of the old fed- 
eral party and they never could be taught the wisdom or expediency 
. ■ ■ i. i . « i 

1 Reman J. Redfield. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MAKTIN VAN BTTBEK. 159 

of foregoing the full enjoyment of present power with a view to fu- 
ture advantages. He disappointed the wishes of our side, but se- 
lected a democratic adherent the least obnoxious to us. 

The sayings and doings of this winter, altho' they ameliorated 
the prejudices against Mr. Clinton in the Democratic ranks, and 
excited friendly feelings in the breasts of many which did not 
altogether subside during the brief remainder of his life, yet car- 
ried conviction to the democratic mind, on the whole, that he had 
become so connected with the federalists by the support he had 
received from them, by social intercourse and latterly by family 
ties — all cemented by a common antipathy against the ascendency 
of Southern principles in our National Councils, as to render his 
support by us impossible without our consent to an amalgamation 
of parties in the state — which was deemed neither possible nor de- 
sirable. I had a long and friendly conversation, neither private 
nor confidential, with Gov. Clinton, on my way to Washington, at 
the house of a mutual friend, to which we were both invited, and 
returned in the Spring with a sincere desire that he should be re- 
elected without opposition. My views were confined to that single 
object. I had long been thoroughly convinced that his entangle- 
ments with the federalists would always present an insuperable ob- 
stacle to anything like the re-establishment of old political rela- 
tions between him and the democratic party. As an individual I 
was influenced by feelings of personal kindness and not a little 
by a consciousness of the unintentional injustice I had done him in 
the matter of the appointment of Attorney General ; as a member 
of the democratic party I felt that his re-election without a contest 
would be a compliment that would go far to efface the severity of 
their treatment of him in his removal from the Canal Board, and I 
saw no adequate motive and some embarrassment in a contest for 
Governor in the then state of National politics. I have heretofore 
mentioned Dr. Cooper, 1 then President of Columbia College in 
South Carolina. He was son-in-law of the celebrated Dr. Priestly, 2 
and himself in many respects a remarkable man. Mr. Jefferson 
expressed his regrets to me that they could not avail themselves of 
his services as President of the University of Virginia, on account 
of objections that were raised by many of the Trustees to his re- 
ligious views, as he thought him by far the fittest man he knew of 
for the place. The active, probably violent part he took in politics 

during the administration of John Adams subjected him to indict- 
ment and trial under the sedition act, and he was on conviction 
sentenced to suffer imprisonment and to pay a fine of, I believe, 

• MS. IT, p. 25. « Thomas Cooper. » Joseph Priestly. 



160 AMERICAN HISTORICAL. ASSOCIATION. 

four hundred dollars. The imprisonment he endured, and I intro- 
duced and supported a Bill to refund to him tha amount of the 
fine — which has, I believe, been since refunded. This induced him 
to write me several friendly letters, continued to a period when, as 
he expressed it, he had not, in Quaker phrase, " freedom " to vote for 
me for President however much he esteemed me personally. One 
of these letters was written during the administration of John 
Quincy Adams, on the subject of the candidate to be brought for- 
ward against him. He expressed great respect and much good 
will towards Mr. Clinton and could see but one objection to him, 
and that was an apprehension, expressed in his usual strong style, 
that Mr. C. would be too much under the influence of the clergy — an 
apprehension founded upon an address then recently delivered by 
him before the Bible. Society. Coming up the river in the same 
boat with Mr. Clinton shortly after its receipt, I informed him that 
I had a letter from the Doctor in which he was particularly men- 
tioned in connection with the Presidency, but that as he might not 
be pleased with its contents I would not offer to shew it to him — but 
would do so if he desired it. He was well acquainted with the Doc- 
tor's character and I handed him the letter at his request. He col- 
oured as he read it, but smiled and said that there was no ground 
for the apprehension. 

Doctor Cooper came north the same summer and brought me a 
letter of introduction from Thomas Addis Emmett. I invited Mr. 
Clinton to meet him at dinner, and the latter was much pleased with 
the originality and invariable force of the Doctor's observations. 

Mr. Clinton was, in a little more than a year afterwards, forever 
removed from the political stage by the hand of death, and the Demo- 
crats of South Carolina took early ground in favor of Gen. Jackson. 
To this Dr. Cooper was earnestly opposed insisting that it would be 
far better in them to go for the re-election of Mr. Adams and giving 
reasons for his opinion which were characteristic of the man. These 
were that if they intended to carry their opposition to a protective 
tariff to the extent contemplated by them, as to which as a nullifier 
he trusted that there would be no flinching, Gen. Jackson was the last 
man they should think of for the Presidency because he would be 
very apt to hang them, whilst they might hope to intimidate Mr. 
Adams. 

Having reason to apprehend that the impression thatj there might 
be no opposition to the re-election of Gov. Clinton was causing con- 
siderable uneasiness among our political friends I made diligent 
enquiries in regard to their dispositions and to that end visited sev- 
eral parts of the state. The result was an entire conviction that any 
attempt to prevent a counter-nomination would produce serious dis- 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN VAN BTTREN.' 161 

cord in oar own ranks and ought not therefore to be made. A consid- 
erable number of our delegates on their way to the Herkimer conven- 
tion met together at my house. Among them were Silas Wright and 
Perley Keyes, two of the most influential leaders of the party. Find- 
ing after the lapse of some time, that no one introduced the subject 
of their Convention about to be held, and understanding the cause of 
their reserve, I introduced it myself by observing that it was an 
extraordinary circumstance that we should have been so long to- 
gether without a word being said in regard to the business they had 
been appointed to perform. The ice being thus broken Mr. Keyes 
expressed a desire to hear my views upon the subject. These were 
given without reserve. Commencing with an admission that I would 
myself have preferred acquiescence in the re-election of Gov. Clinton 
and the reasons for that preference, I proceeded to inform them of 
the enquiries I had made and the result of them, which was that I 
was satisfied that a nomination could not be omitted without seri- 
ously distracting our party and that I could not urge that course in 
view of such a consequence. They were relieved and gratified by this 
explanation, assuring me that there was great unanimity among our 
friends in favor of a nomination, that they had heard with regret 
that I was averse to it, and one of the delegation told me that the 
meeting at which he was appointed had gone 90 far as to advise him 
and his colleagues to nominate one of themselves, if they could get no 
other candidate. 

On being asked whom they had thought of as a candidate they 
without a dissenting voice named Gen. William Paulding of West- 
chester. I expressed the greatest respect for Gen. Paulding saying 
that I would with pleasure make him Governor if it was in my 
power to do so, but that there were, in my judgment, strong objec- 
tions to his nomination. The place of his residence and his well 
known participation in the feelings of his neighbors, adverse to 
the construction of the Erie Canal, would alone make his selection 
inexpedient. But there was another and strange as it might seem 
to them a still more formidable objection. I alluded to the report 
already extensively circulated that the General was the subject of 
a singular monomania in regard to his physical condition— one well 
adapted to be made the subject of ridicule. Knowing Mr. Clinton's 
proclivity to that species of assault, and having on several occa- 
sions witnessed his ability to make it effectual, L feared that he would 
turn this report into a weapon for that purpose and whether true or 
false that it would be in his hands very damaging against one who 
was from other causes a weak candidate. These remarks naturally 
led to a call upon me to name a candidate more likely to be success- 
full. I replied that since I had changed my views in regard to a 

127483°— vol 2—20 11 



162 * AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

nomination I had reflected much upon that question as one likely to 
involve our future success. as a party and that I had come to a con- 
clusion to which I was quite sure they would not upon first impres- 
sions agree, but I desired that they would hear me patiently and 
then do as they thought best I confessed that in making my se- 
lection I had looked beyond the election of a Governor, and had 
been materially influenced by a deep sense of the disastrous conse- 
quences that would follow anything like a signal defeat in the pres- 
ent condition of National politics and so near a Presidential election 
in which I hoped to see the democracy of New York act an impor- 
tant part. °I said that I had never known an occasion on which I 
was so willing as at present to make sacrifices to availability, or one 
on which that point was entitled to so much consideration ; — that it 
should be remembered that we had been overwhelmed at the previous 
election of Governor by a union between the friends of Clinton, 
Adams and Clay, for although our candidate Col. Young, had on the 
eve of the election declared for Mr. Clay and had received the votes 
of a few of his supporters, most of them had acted upon the prin- 
ciple which on such occasions usually controls the action of minor 
factions, that of striking at the strongest, and had voted for Clin- 
ton to put down Crawford; — that a similar union between the 
friends of Adams, Clay, Jackson and Calhoun had broken us down 
in the Presidential election ; — that Mr. Adams had offered Mr. Clin- 
ton the first seat in his Cabinet, which upon his declension was given 
to Mr. Clay, and that there was, at the moment when I spoke, ap- 
parently, a more cordial union between the friends of Clinton, 
Adams and Clay than existed in 1824, and, if we so acted as to com- 
pel them to go together, that something like the same result might be 
produced. It was well understood that we intended to support Gen. 
Jackson, and I urged that if we nominated a candidate who was 
avowedly in his favor we would present to those three political in- 
terests the same inducements they had in 1824 to coalesce, but that 
having good reasons to believe that the apparent union between the 
friends of Clinton on the one hand, and those of Adams and Clay, 
now identified, on the other, was a hollow one, if we nominated a 
candidate whom the latter would regard as their friend, and would 
therefore favour or be only suspected of favoring by his election, 
we would drive a wedge into that union that would sever it forever. 
I then named William B. Rochester as the man whose nomination 
would produce that result. His father had been a partner in business 
with the father [-in-law] of Mr. Clay, and he was at that moment on 
his return from a Mission which had been conferred on him through 
Mr. Clay's influence. He was also, as I remarked, eligibly situated 

• MS. II, p. 30. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN VAN BUKBX. 168 

in regard to the Canal, had so conducted himself as to avoid creat- 
ing strong prejudices on the part of our friends, and altho' we might 
have some trouble with him if elected we should probably succeed 
in electing reliable men to all the other Departments of the Govern- 
ment and in that event would be able to prevent him from doing 
much injury to our cause. I believed him honest and had obtained 
a small appointment for him from the General Government, and 
was personally very partial to him although I did not suppose that 
I could influence him against the wishes of Mr. Clay. 

My exposition made a favorable impression upon the majority 
of my auditors, but Wright and Keyes remained immovable. 1 They 
would consent to take Rochester for Lieutenant Governor, but his 
nomination for Governor, all other considerations apart, would be 
such a surprise upon the public that it would for that reason fail. 
They held to the old rule of a regular progression, and could not 
believe in the policy of starting a new man for so important a place. 
The objection had no weight with me but they persisted in it 
I called those gentlemen back after the others left, and begged them 
to think the matter over again on their way to Herkimer and to sac- 
rifice their prejudices against Mr. Clay, which I knew lay at the 
bottom of their opposition, to the demands of the crisis. 

William L. Marcy, then Adjutant General of the State, having 
official business with Gov. Clinton on the following day was asked 
what his friends would do at Herkimer, and on his replying that 
they would probably make a nomination, the Governor exclaimed, 
in a lively tone, "Gen. Paulding, I suppose !" On being informed 
that it might be Rochester, Marcy told me that he sobered down 
and became thoughtful to a degree that embarrassed the latter and 
induced him to propose to postpone their business, to which the 
Governor readily assented. Although not apt to place a very 
high estimate upon the influence of his opponents, Gov. Clinton 
saw at a glance the direction in which such a nomination would 
point and the danger that would flow from it Keyes and Wright 
acknowledged to me afterwards that they saw the matter in the 
same light before they got to Herkimer and used their influence upon 
their arrival to secure the nomination of Rochester which was 
made. The matter worked as we anticipated. The nomination 
was reputed to have been made through the influence of the National 
Administration, and that report received no contradiction from 
Washington. The frail cord that united the latter with the Clinton- 
ians was snapped, and could never have been reunited if Mr. Clinton 
had lived. For many days after the election, Rochester was sup- 
posed to have succeeded, and Gov. Clinton was finally found to 

1 Sllaa Wright, Jr., and Perley Keyes. 



158 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

• 

and by the accounts I had received from different parts of the state 
that the injurious effects upon the harmony and efficiency of our 
own party by the combined agitation of Mr. Clinton's removal and 
the Electoral question had substantially spent themselves, I replied 
to Taylor's observations in regard to the imposing character of Mr. 
Clinton's position by pronouncing a very confident opinion that we 
should defeat him in the elections for the legislature to be held 
within a few days. He expressed his surprise at my delusion and 
repeated the conversation to Gen. Van Rensselaer. The latter in- 
formed me that he had told the Governor what I had said to Taylor, 
who had assured him that there was but one senatorial district in 
the state in which we stood the slightest chance, and that the ma- 
jority against us in the House of Assembly would be overwhelming. 
Gen. Van Rensselaer was evidently distressed by my confidence in 
a different result for tho' perhaps liking me personally quite as well 
as he liked the Governor, he was on political grounds desirous that 
the latter should be sustained. 

We elected three of the eight Senators, and a decided majority 
in the House of Assembly. Although in this election the Demo- 
cratic party acted in undisguised opposition to Gov. Clinton it is an 
undoubted fact that their prejudices against him had then already 
considerably abated. Their distaste for Mr. Adams — a strong and 
I believe well founded belief that the Governor sympathized in that 
feeling — and the fact that many of the leading friends of Mr. Adams 
in the state and a large proportion of the members elected to the 
Legislature on the same ticket with Mr. Clinton at the election of 
1824, were as hostile to him as they were to us, contributed to that 
change. Informal conferences took place at Albany, during the 
session of the Legislature of 1825-6, between prominent democrats 
and some of the friends of the Governor with a view to bring this 
feeling to practical results. The Governor nominated his connexion 
by marriage, Samuel Jones, always before a zealous Federalist, to 
the office of Chancellor, and the Senate, in which our friends were 
1 largely in the majority confirmed the nomination promptly and 
unanimously. It was expected that he would give an indication that 
he reciprocated the feelings of returning good will which had been, 
in various ways, manifested, and the nomination of Mr. Rcdfield 1 
for the office of Circuit Judge was looked to as the proof of such dis- 
position. He was believed to be personally favorable to this meas- 
ure, but there was a lion in his path. Although he had obtained his 
election by temporary secessions from the democratic ranks the great 
body of his supporters was composed of the remains of the old fed- 
eral party and they never could be taught the wisdom or expediency 
. — - — ■ ■ > 

1 ncman J. Red field. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN YAK BUREN. 159 

of foregoing the full enjoyment of present power with a view to fu- 
ture advantages. He disappointed the wishes of our side, but se- 
lected a democratic adherent the least obnoxious to us. 

The sayings and doings of this winter, altho' they ameliorated 
the prejudices against Mr. Clinton in the Democratic ranks, and 
excited friendly feelings in the breasts of many which did not 
altogether subside during the brief remainder of his life, yet car- 
ried conviction to the democratic mind, on the whole, that he had 
become so connected with the federalists by the support he had 
received from them, by social intercourse and latterly by family 
ties — all cemented by a common antipathy against the ascendency 
of Southern principles in our National Councils, as to render his 
support by us impossible without our° consent to an amalgamation 
of parties in the state — which was deemed neither possible nor de- 
sirable. I had a long and friendly conversation, neither private 
nor confidential, with Gov. Clinton, on my way to Washington, at 
the house of a mutual friend, to which we were both invited, and 
returned in the Spring with a sincere desire that he should be re- 
elected without opposition. My views were confined to that single 
object. I had long been thoroughly convinced that his entangle- 
ments with the federalists would always present an insuperable ob- 
stacle to anything like the re-establishment of old political rela- 
tions between him and the democratic party. As an individual I 
was influenced by feelings of personal kindness and not a little 
by a consciousness of the unintentional injustice I had done him in 
the matter of the appointment of Attorney General; as a member 
of the democratic party I felt that his re-election without a contest 
would be a compliment that would go far to efface the severity of 
their treatment of him in his removal from the Canal Board, and I 
saw no adequate motive and some embarrassment in a contest for 
Governor in the then state of National politics. I have heretofore 
mentioned Dr. Cooper, 1 then President of Columbia College in 
South Carolina. He was son-in-law of the celebrated Dr. Priestly, 2 
and himself in many respects a remarkable man. Mr. Jefferson 
expressed his regrets to me that they could not avail themselves of 
his services as President of the University of Virginia, on account 
of objections that were raised by many of the Trustees to his re- 
ligious views, as he thought him by far the fittest man he knew of 
for the place. The active, probably violent part he took in politics 

during the administration of John Adams subjected him to indict- 
ment and trial under the sedition act, and he was on conviction 
sentenced to suffer imprisonment and to pay a fine of, I believe, 

• MS. IT, p. 25. * Thomas Cooper. ■ Joseph Trfestly. 



166 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

§ 

The public mind at Washington was deeply agitated by the news 
of the Governor's sudden death. Political rivalry, so rife at the 
moment, was hushed for a season and rooted prejudices displaced 
by feelings of sincere regret. The silencing of animosity and the 
awakening of charity and sympathy in the human heart in the 
presence of death is always a grateful subject of contemplation to 
the benevolent mind, and when these effects are produced by the 
sudden close of a prominent and influential public life, while yet in 
mid career, it is no less matter of satisfaction to the patriot. At a 
meeting of the representatives in Congress from the State of New 
York, convened for the purpose of expressing their feelings on this 
occasion, the following remarks were made by me, 1 which I here 
insert from a report published at the time. 

The honorable Martin Van Buren of the Senate addressed the meeting 
nearly in the following words : 

Mr. Chairman : We have met to pay a tribute of respect to the memory of 
our late Governor and distinguished fellow-citizen, De Witt Clinton. Some 
of our brethren have been so kind as to ask me to prepare a suitable expres- 
sion of our feelings: and I have, in pursuance of their wishes, drawn up 
what has occurred to me, as proper to be said on the occasion. Before I sub- 
mit it to the consideration of the meeting, I beg leave to be indulged in a few 
brief remarks. I can say nothing of the deceased that is not familiar to you 
all. To all he was personally known, and to many of us intimately and 
familiarly, from our earliest infancy. The high order of his talents, the untir- 
ing zeal and great success with which those talents have, through a series 
of years, been devoted to the prosecution of plans of great public utility, are 
also known to you aU; and by all I am satisfied duly appreciated. The 
subject can derive no additional interest or importance from any eulogy of 
mine. AU other considerations out of view, the single fact that the greatest 
public improvement of the age in which we live was commenced under the 
guidance of his counsels, and splendidly accomplished under his Immediate 
auspices, is of itself sufficient to fill the ambition of any man, and to give 
glory to any name. But, as has been Justly said, his life and character and 
conduct have become the property of the historian, and there is no reason 
to doubt that history will do him justice. The triumph of his talent and pa- 
triotism cannot fail to become monuments of high and enduring fame. We 
cannot indeed but remember that in our own public career, collisions of opinion 
and action, at once extensive, earnest and enduring, have arisen between the 
deceased and many of us. For myself, sir, it gives me a deep-felt, though 
melancholy, satisfaction, to know, and more so to be conscious that the 
deceased also felt and acknowledged, that our political differences have been 
wholly free from that most venomous and corroding of all poisons — personal 
hatred. But in other respects it is now immaterial what was the character 
of those collisions. They have been turned to nothing, and less than nothing, 
by the event we deplore, and I doubt not that we will, with one voice and 
one heart, yield to his memory the well deserved tribute of our respect of his 

1 Oakley's note to Van Buren Feb. 18, 1828, suggesting that the latter take the lead 
In the matter Is in the Van Buren Papers in the Library of Congress. The remarks are 
from The National Journal, Washington, D. C, Feb. 22, 1828. The meeting was held 
In the Capitol, Feb. 19. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN VAN BUREN. 167 

name and oar wannest gratitude for his great and signal service. For myself, 
fdr, so strong, so sincere and so engrossing is that feeling, that I, who whilst 
living never no never envied him anything; now that he has fallen, am 
greatly tempted to envy him his grave with its honours. 

Of this the most afflicting of all bereavements that has fallen upon his 
wretched and despondent family, what shall I say? Nothing — their grief is too 
sacred for description — Justice can alone be done to it by those deep and 
silent, but agonizing feelings which on their account pervade every bosom. 

Mr. Van Buren then submitted the following resolution : 

The Delegation from the Sta^te of New York to the Senate and House of 
Representatives of the Congress of the United States, having been informed 
of the sudden death of De Witt Clinton, late Governor of that State, feel it 
due to the occasion, as well as to their own feelings, to unite with the people 
they represent, in expressing their deep and sincere sorrow for a dispensation 
of Providence which has, in the midst of active usefulness, cut off from the 
service of that State, whose proudest ornament he was, a great man, who 
has won and richly deserved the reputation of a distinguished public bene- 
factor. 

Sensibly impressed with respect for the memory of the illustrious dead, they 
will wear the usual badge of mourning for thirty days; and they request 
that a copy of these, their proceedings, be communicated to the family of the 
deceased, with an assurance of their condolence at the greatest bereavement 
that could have befallen them on this side the grave. 

After a lapse of more than a quarter of a century and after hav- 
ing enjoyed the highest political distinctions known to our system, 
I can truly say that I feel upon the subject now as I expressed my- 
self then. 

Mr. Clinton's political advancement did not realize either the antic- 
ipations of his early friends or perhaps his own expectations. But 
he left traces upon the times in which he lived which were made 
indelible by his connection* with the great Public Work of his pe- 
riod — the Erie Canal. In all the relations of private life his con- 
duct and character were, if not faultless, certainly without just 
reproach. His social habits for a season excited the apprehensions 
of his friends and were made the subject of unfavorable censure 
by his opponents, but the former were dispelled and the latter refuted 
-before he died. His talents are admitted to have been of a high 
order and were favorably exhibited in his writings; his speeches 
also were carefully and well constructed but delivered in an awk- 
ward and unimpressive manner. He never enjoyed extensive popu- 
larity with the masses, altho' there can be no doubt of his desire 
to acquire it, and the failure of his efforts in that direction has been 
variously accounted for. His official communications were filled, 
sometimes overloaded, with expositions and recommendations of 
measures which he thought calculated to subserve public and ad- 
vance private interests. His friends generally attributed his want 
of popularity to the stateliness and seeming hauteur of his man- 



168 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

ners, but when the limited extent of his personal intercourse with 
the People is considered the correctness of this interpretation of re- 
sults so diffused may well be doubted. 

In this matter of personal popularity the working of the public 
mind is often inscrutable. In one respect only doe6 it appear to be 
subject to rule, namely in the application of a closer scrutiny by the 
People to the motives of public men than to their actions. When 
one is presented to them possessed of an ardent temperament who 
adopts their cause, as they think, from sympathy and sincerely re- 
gards their interests as his own, they return sympathy for sympathy 
with equal sincerity and are always ready to place the most favorable 
constructions upon his actions and slow to withdraw their confidence 
however exceptionable his conduct in many respects may be. But 
when a politician fails to make this impression — when they on the 
contrary are led to regard him as one who only takes the popular side 
of public questions from motives of policy their hearts seem closed 
against him, they look upon his wisest measures with distrust, and are 
apt to give him up at the first adverse turn in his affairs. The 
process by which they arrive at one or the other of these conclusions 
is not easily described. Feeling has of course more to do with it 
than reason, yet, tho' sometimes wrong, it must be admitted that 
they are much oftener right in their discriminations. Jefferson and 
Jackson were favorites of the character I have described, and justly 
so. Clinton was not. For his conduct in regard to the Erie Canal 
he received from the public all the credit to which he was entitled 
notwithstanding the unfavorable criticisms that were made as to his 
motives — criticisms of which we would not have heard if that great 
public service had been rendered by either of the statesmen I have 
referred to. A striking illustration of the truth of this view was 
furnished by the fact that when he was for the last time a candidate 
for popular suffrages he was not as well supported by the people on 
the line of the Erie Canal (making allowances for their political 
preferences) as his competitor, a young man who had rendered no aid 
to that great enterprise deserving to be mentioned in comparison 
with his own. 



CHAPTER XV. 

Circumstances occurred in the summer of this year which from 
their 1 bearing upon a great public question are deserving of notice. 
The annual petition of the manufacturers to Congress for increased 
protection, presented at the previous session, resulted in the report 
of what was called the ° Woollens' Bill. Having promised to accom- 
pany a friend on a visit to the Congressional Cemetery, I was absent 
from the Senate when the Bill was reached and rejected by the cast- 
ing vote of Vice President Calhoun. My absence was assumed to 
have been intentional and was made the ground for the usual news- 
paper vituperation, according to which my delinquency was greatly 
aggravated by my accompanying Gen. Hamilton and Col. Drayton 
to South Carolina at the close of the session. Whilst at Charleston 
I received a letter from Comptroller Marcy urging my immediate 
return to arrest the use that our opponents were making of the ma- 
terials with which I had thus supplied them. Having had some 
experience of his propensity to croak % and being withal not ready to 
comply with his unreasonable request, I replied that if my standing 
at home was not sufficient to protect me against such assaults it was 
not worth preserving and that I should not hasten my return for 
such a purpose. On my way homewards I learned at West Point 
from a reliable authority that the Tariff champion Mallary had in- 
formed his friends that it was the intention of the Protectionists to 
denounce my course at a State Tariff Convention which was to meet 
at Albany within a week or two, and that my old friend the Patroon 1 
had agreed to preside at the meeting. I immediately determined to 
face the assemblage and to speak for myself, but without communi- 
cating my intention to a single friend. 

To the very able exposition of the system and the persistent 
assaults upon its injustice and impolicy by the New York Evening 
Post, the country is more indebted for its final overthrow, in this 
state at least, than to any other single influence. 

On the morning of the Tariff meeting at the Capitol I sent for 
my friends Benjamin Knower and Charles E. Dudley, and for the 
first time informed them of my intentions and asked them to accom- 
pany me. They vehemently remonstrated against the proposed 
step and told me that they had been reliably informed of the inten- 
tion to pass a vote of censure upon my course in regard to the 

" MS. U, p. 40. » Stephen Van EenMelaer. 

109 



170 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

Woollens Bill, 1 and that altho' there would be many of my political 
friends at the meeting, a very large majority would be enemies who 
would, avail themselves of my presence to make the proceeding more 
humiliating. I agreed with their opinion as to the meditated as- 
sault, but observed that it would not be contained in the Report 
of the Committee, as well to save the feelings of my friends at the 
Commencement as because the managers would know that Gen. Van 
Rensselaer would not make himself a party to such a Report by a 
Committee of his appointing, and that as the censure, for these rea- 
sons, would doubtless be reserved for a motion to amend, at "the 
close of the proceedings, if I could unexpectedly appear before them 
after the organization of £he meeting I would take my chance for 
what was done afterwards. They still objected, but were of course 
willing to go with me, and after ascertaining, by a messenger dis- 
patched for that purpose, that the assemblage was organized for its 
work we repaired to the Capitol. 

My appearance 'occasioned evident surprise. The good Patroon 
who presided asked me to take a seat by his side, which I respect- 
/fully declined, and chose an eligible position in the crowd. At 
the end of every speech the eyes of the assemblage were directed 
towards me, but I waited until every one had spoken who desired to 
do so, and I then addressed the meeting for nearly two hours. Some 
of the speeches previously made contained or insinuated enough to 
justify me in regarding myself as accused of delinquency in the 
matter of the Woollens Bill and thus to open the whole subject. 
I was listened to throughout with silent but respectful attention. 
During the whole time my friend Knower sat directly before and 
with his eyes fixed upon me, and when I spoke of the injustice 
that had been done to me he was so much moved as to attract the 
attention of the meeting. He was then extensively engaged in the 
purchase of wool, but being a Republican of the old school and 
withal a singularly upright man and sincere friend, those fine qual-r 
ities had not yet. been affected by the ardent pursuit of money. At 
a later period he separated from many of his early friends, myself 
among the rest, in consequence of their anti-tariff opinions, but a 
short time before his death he addressed me a letter replete with 
the sentiments and the spirit of his best days. 

At the close of my speech Mr. J. Townsend a son-in-law of Judge 
Spencer and a rich manufacturer, expressed a desire to pass a vote of 
thanks to me for it, but some of his more sagacious associates, who 
did not think as favorably of its probable effect, interfered and over- 
ruled him. The meeting dissolved without anything being further 

l A bill for the "Alteration of the actff Imposing duties on imports" introduced Jaa 
27, 1827, by Rollln C. Mallary, of Vermont, and designed to amend the tariff of 1824. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MABTIN VAN BUREN. 171 

said or done, and we moved down State Street from the Capitol 
with every indication of exultation on the part of my friends at its 
denouement, and of dejection on the other side. 

Mr. Knower came to me in the evening and told me that, on his 
way home from the Capitol, Mr. Wood, one of his wool buyers 
and a sensible man, said to him — ''Mr. Knower 1 that was a very 
able speech 1 " " Yes, very able ! " he answered. "Mr. Knower ! " 
again said Mr. Wood, after a considerable pause, — " on which side 
of the Tariff question was it? " ° "That is the very point I was 
thinking about when you first spoke to me, Mr. Wood!" replied 
Knower. 

I have frequently been told and have always believed that I ren- 
dered much service to the cause of truth by that speech, but this 
conversation between two intelligent and interested men would 
seem to indicate that directness on all points had not been its most 
prominent feature. 

In the course of my remarks I had referred to the fact, by way 
of putting myself in good company, that the Chairman of the 
Meeting, my very good friend the JPatroon, had been also absent 
from his seat in the House of Representatives when the Woolen's 
Bill passed that body. The recollection of this fact, and especially 
my reference to it, had made him quite uneasy in a position which, 
as I understood, he had promised, even before he left Washington, 
to occupy altho' he had not been apprised of thfe intention to assail 
me. In the evening, being desirous to see how he had relished 
the proceedings, I proposed to Gen. Thomas Pinckney, of South 
Carolina, who had called upon me, a visit to the Manor House. 
We found Gen. Van Rensselaer in the act of giving Mrs. Van Rens- 
selaer an account of the meeting and our arrival created an em- 
barrassment, unpleasantly obvious to both of us, that made me 
regret that we had interrupted him. 

I had sustained the protective policy by my votes and speeches 
under instructions of the Legislature, but the more I became ac- 
quainted with its true character and with the views of its advocates 
the more my repugnance to it became strengthened. Compelled to 
regard it is a system equally unwise and illiberal, kept on foot by 
politicians to secure the support of a class of men whose selfish 
appetite increased by indulgence, I became sincerely solicitous for 
its overthrow ; but experience having shewn that it had acquired, by 
the plausible pretences upon which it was sustained, a hold upon the 
public mind which could only be loosened by degrees and by means 
which would not rouse the prejudices of its supporters, I determined 
to assail it in that form. Whatever may be thought of the morality 



9 MS. II, p. 40. 



172 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

of such a conclusion it was to my mind quite clear that an obstinate 
error like this/ fostered by positive private gains to a busy few and 
promises of individual advantages to large and influential classes 
could in no other way be successfully combatted, and I considered it 
a case in which the end would justify means so little exceptionable. 
President Jackson pursued a similar course, and, as I know, for 
similar reasons, in his Maysville Veto. 1 The great influence which 
that Message exerted in overthrowing the entire system of Internal 
Improvement by the Federal Government, altho' it was only directed 
against a part, is universally conceded. How much was done to- 
wards correcting public sentiment on the subject of high tariffs in our 
state by the course I pursued, it is not for me to say. Governor 
Marcy, who will not, by those who knew him, be remembered as a 
flatterer even of his best friends notwithstanding this instance of 
exaggerated praise, in a letter to me some months after this period, 
referring to his solicitude as to the political effect that must be pro- 
duced by the tariff feeling and his apprehension that it had disturbed 
his relations with Mr. Wright, wrote as follows : 

There was last spring a more than half formed opinion that you was hostile 
to the Tariff ; this opinion was settling down into a conviction accompanied with 
some excitement and was doing (or rather was about to) infinite mischief to 
the cause of Genl Jackson in this State, when, at the most auspicious moment 
that political sagacity ever selected, and by the most successful effort that 
talent ever made, you destroyed in the speech you made at the Capitol all the 
works which long premeditated mischief had contrived* and the Industry of 
political enemies had been many months employed, to raise up for the prostra- 
tion of yourself and the cause you had espoused." 

In every subsequent National canvass until my final retirement 
from public life my Woollen's Speech (as it was called) was made 
a prominent subject of a partizan agitation. It was denounced by 
my opponents at the South as proof of my being a Protectionist and 
by those at the North as proof of my hostility to the system. So fre- 
quent and continued were the applications for explanations that I 
was obliged to have an edition of the speech published for the benefit 
of my friends at the South. At the north its drift and design were 
soon understood and in the end favorably appreciated* 

In the fall of this year Thomas Addis Emmett was seized with 
paralysis whilst engaged in the trial of a cause, and died almost im- 
mediately. I was one of the opposing counsel in the cause, and as 
the court adjourned on the preceding day he [Emmett] expressed to 
me his surprise that we had kept our suit — the claim of Bishop 
Inglis, of Nova Scotia, to the immense estate called the Sailor's Snug 
Harbor— on foot so long, but added that we could not prolong its life 

* Message of May 27, 1830, with veto of bill authorising a subscription of stock In 
the Maysville, Washington, Paris and Lexington Turnpike Company. 

'This letter, Marcy to Van Buren, 1828, Jan. 29, Is the Van Buren Papers la the 
Library of Congress. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN VAN BUBEN. 178 

beyond twelve o'clock of the next day. When that time arrived I 
followed him from the bar to the stove, whither he had been called by 
an acquaintance, and said " Well, Mr. Emmett, the hour has come and 
we are alive yet I" u Yes," he answered — " but you cannot live much 
longer 1 " Immediately after my return to my seat David B. Ogden 
said to me " Look at Emmett !, He is going to have a fitl " I looked 
and replied that it was a mistake. In a few moments he repeated 
the alarm more emphatically. I went to Chief Justice Thompson, 
before whom the cause was tried, and informed him of Mr. Ogden's 
suspicions. The Judge observed Mr. Emmett closely, and replied 
pleasantly "No I No! Ogden is mistaken— his under lip hangs a 
little lower than usual, but that is natural to him when he is writ- 
ing t " At that instant and as I turned towards my seat I saw Mr. 
Emmett reel in his chair and extend his hand towards a neighbour- 
ing pillar. I endeavoured to intercept his fall but without success; 
he was carried to his house and died in a few hours. 1 

I had considerable professional intercourse with Mr. Emmett, 
admired his talents, and always found him liberal, honorable and 
just. His conduct and character as a public man are known to the 
country. He soon lived down the censures and hatred which pur- 
sued him in his emigration and were for a season troublesome, and 
died universally lamented as an honest man and faithful citizen. 

There were circumstances in the life of my ill fated friend 
Samuel A* Talcott, connected with the- same trial in the course of 
which Mr. Emmett died, which lead me to take here a brief notice 
of his brilliant yet melancholy career. About the year 1819 I 
chanced to see a number of articles in a western newspaper criticis- 
ing and censuring my course in regard to a public question, the 
marked ability of which caused me to make enquiries in respect to 
their paternity. I soon ascertained that they were written by Mr. 
Talcott, a young federal lawyer of Oneida County whom I had 
never seen. Happening afterwards to be on the same boat with him, 
on our way to attend the Supreme Court at New York, I sought and 
made his acquaintance, and finding him undetermined, on our ar- 
rival, where to lodge, I invited him to accompany me to the Parke 
Place Hotel where I usually staid, to which he consented. The 
house being very full I ordered a bed in my room for his temporary 
accommodation. This arrangement led to frequent conversations 
which impressed me with the highest opinion of his character and 
intellectual endowments. I told him one day, between jest and 
earnest, that he was misplaced in the political field, and that he 
ought to be on our side. At the moment I had not the least idea 
that any consequence would flow from the remark, but I soon dis- 

» Not. 27, 1827. 



174 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

covered that he had thought seriously upon the subject, and was 
desirous to talk farther with me about it I gave him a very un- 
reserved account of my own political opinions and, as far as I un- 
derstood them, of those of the mass of my party, and pointed out 
to him the reasons why his chances for fame and public usefulness 
would be increased by joining us ; but advised him at the same time 
to come to no hasty conclusion — to think the matter over deliber- 
ately at home, and, if he found his way so clear as to afford a 
reasonable confidence that the change when made would be satis* 
factory and permanent, to make it — if not, to stay where he was, 
for X had too much respect for him. to wish him to adopt a time 
serving policy. 

Some weeks after this I received a letter from him informing 
me of his intention to attend a democratic meeting and to avow 
his adhesion to our party and that I might rest assured that he 
had not come to the conclusion without a solemn resolution that 
in politics as it was his first so it would be his last change. 

His great talents soon made him conspicuous' in our ranks and 
as early as the year 1821 he was appointed Attorney General of 
the State in the place of my successor in that office Thomas J. 
Oakley. The selection of so young a man and so recent a con- 
vert from the federal side drew down considerable censure upon the 
Council of Appointment from disappointed candidates and their 
friends and not a small portion of it was diverted against myself 
on the suspicion, better founded than usual, that I had exerted 
myself in his favor. I felt no uneasiness about this, as I was cer- 
tain that it would soon satisfy all disinterested friends that it was 
the best selection that could have been made. This he accomplished 
in a short time and very thoroughly, and whilst the man, who had 
busied himself in an unavailing effort to get up a Legislative meet- 
ing to denounce us for making a federal appointment, himself joined 
the other side, young Talcott attained a solid popularity in our 
party and an eminent professional standing. 

But these bright prospects were destined to be early blasted by 
habits of intemperance, which grew upon him with fearful rapidity, 
and filled the hearts of his friends with sorrow. The wane of his 
professional fortunes, before his fall, was protracted by the respect 
which he inspired as a man and by the admiration which he com- 
pelled by his remarkable professional talents and acquirements. 
After the fell disease had made great progress his clients, unwilling 
to dispense with his services, often resorted to the expedient of en- 
listing the good offices of some mutual friend to remain with him 
and to keep him for a time from the intoxicating bowl. Many in- 
stances of this were known to me of which I will notice a few. Under 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OP MARTIN VAK BT7REX. 175 

feuch training (which he perfectly understood and aided as far as 
his infirm nature would allow) he made an argument in the Su- 
preme ° Court of the United States which called forth the strongest 
applause of Chief Justice Marshall and all his brethren, greatly 
excited a numerous and intelligent audience and attracted the atten- 
tion of the country to an almost unprecedented extent. 

In a very important trial between the State of New York and 
John Jacob Astor, in which Chancellor Kent, Mr. Webster and my- 
self were employed as Counsel on behalf of the State, and Mr. Tal- 
rott represented it as Attorney General, it became necessary to have 
a consultation in regard to several difficult questions of law which 
arose in the case. We agreed to meet at the Chancellor's office in 
Greenwich street, and Mr. Talcott was to call for me on his way 
down to the appointed rendezvous. When he arrived at my room 
I was shocked to find that he was very much intoxicated and taking 
his arm I led him past Rector street, down which lay our direct 
route, as far as the Battery, and there walked with him to and fro 
for a long time and beyond the hour fixed for our meeting. When 
in one of our turns we came to the gate which was nearest the 
Chancellor's residence, he looked me in the face and, expressing by 
a smile his consciousness of my object, said — "I think it will do 
now !" " Well," I replied, " if you think so we will go !" 

The other gentlemen had been waiting for us and he at once pro- 
ceeded, as his official station required, to state the several questions 
in their order, the difficulties of each, and the manner in which he 
thought it best to deal with them. He did this in so full, able and 
vivid a manner, as to leave us nothing to do but to adopt his recom- 
mendations. After he left us to fulfill an appointment, the Chan- 
cellor and Mr. Webster expressed very earnestly their admiration 
of the general accuracy of his views, the simple power of his lan- 
guage, and his extraordinary familiarity with questions as abstruse 
and difficult as any in legal science. They referred also with deli- 
cacy and obvious sincerity to their regret at hearing of the un- 
favorable impressions which existed in regard to .his habits, but 
not one of them dreamed of the narrow escape they had just had 
from an exhibition of them. 

In the suit on the trial of which Emmett fell, which was, as I have 
mentioned, an action brought by Bishop Inglis of Nova Scotia for 
the recovery of real estate in the city of New York, even then of 
great value and now worth several millions of dollars, Talcott was 
one of his associate counsel. The Bishop claimed as heir at ]aw of 
the last owner, Mr. Randall, and the defendant claimed under his 
will, by which the whole property was devised as a charity for the 
support and comfort of aged and infirm seamen. We contested this 

• MS. ii, p. 50. 



176 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

devise as illegal and had, for reasons not necessary to be stated here, 
satisfied ourselves that if we could obtain possession of the property 
we would have no difficulty in maintaining it During the early 
stages of the trial, Talcott was in an unfit state to come into court, 
and his associates under the lead of Emmett, desirous to avoid the 
issue on the validity of the devise, had for several days managed 
the defence in a way which shewed a determination to rely on their 
possession as a sufficient bar to our claim. On the day before the 
sad occurrence that filled us all with sorrow, Talcott walked into court, 
looking fresh and well, and took his seat among his associates. 
After some conversation between them Mr. Emmett asked the indul- 
gence of the Court while they retired for consultation, and gave as a 
reason that they had until that moment been deprived of the assist- 
ance of Mr. Talcott by his indisposition. As they walked out I said 
to Mr. Ogden, my associate, that I was quite sure that Talcott would 
induce them to produce the will, but he thought that the opposite 
policy had been too firmly settled. The first thing after their return 
was Mr. Emmett's offering the will in evidence. 

We were defeated and I had the curiosity immediately after the 
trial was ended to ask the Chief Justice what he would have thought 
of the cause if they had not introduced the will. He replied that, 
assuming from the course pursued by the defendant's counsel that 
they did not mean to rely upon it, he had considered the cause in 
that light, and had come to a very decided conclusion that they 
could not prevent our recovery on the strength of their possession. 
I have therefore ever thought that the chances were at least equal 
that if Talcott had not come into court that large estate would 
have gone in a different direction. 

Within an hour after the fall of Mr. Emmett I took a long walk 
with Talcott and pressed upon his attention the vacancy in the pro- 
fession now certain to be created in New York by Mr. Emmett's 
death, and the fact that he was the most able man in the state to 
fill it. After talking some time I paused and added that there 
was but one obstacle to his success, and that he must understand 
what I alluded to. He said he did well understand! I exclaimed 
with vehemence — -"is it not possible to remove that?" — to which 
he answered characteristically, "I can try!" He moved to the city 
and endeavoured to break the hold of his insidious enemy, but in 
vain. In the course of a few years he became an inmate of the 
Hospital for the Insane where he died. Thus perished, alas ! how 
ingloriously, a mind of the highest order; a counsellor of well earned 
and brilliant distinction — the best black-letter lawyer I ever knew — ; 
a man of the purest personal character and friend the most sin- 
cere. 



CHAPTER XVI. 

Of the action of the Federal Government during the adminis- 
tration of Mr. Monroe I have nothing farther to say, but I cannot 
pass without noticing two visits I made to Virginia during his 
last term, the incidents of which were interesting to me and the 
relation of them may be somewhat so to others. It seems unavoid- 
able in writings of this land to make oneself to a great extent 
the hero of the narrative, although the offensive intrusion of " the 
eternal I " is as disagreeable to me as it can be to the reader. I 
doubt not that when Mr. Jefferson feelingly exclaims in his auto-' 
biography, that he U tired of speaking of himself, he disclosed 
the true reason why that work was not continued to its proper 
termination: and I am continually tempted by the 'same induce- 
ment to bring my story to an abrupt close. 

I paid my first visit to Mount Vernon on the invitation of Judge 
Bushrod Washington to spend Christmas with him, accompanied 
by Gen. C. F. Mercer who had bqen the bearer of the invitation. 
A closer acquaintance confirmed my impressions of the purity of 
the Judge's character, and I was agreeably surprised by the vi- 
vacity of his disposition. His mental qualifications were of a highly 
respectable order, and united to the simplicity and frankness of 
his manners made his society peculiarly agreeable, and his cordial 
hbspitality assisted by the Herberts, 1 Mrs. Washington's nephews 
.who besides their other accomplishments sang remarkably well, 
made ours a merry Christmas. Mrs. Washington had been a long 
time bed-ridden, but the singing drew her to the head of the stair 
case and it was delightful to see how much this circumstance ex- 
cited the Judge's sensibilities and added to. the general hilarity. 
In the course of the evening we availed ourselves of the fine weather 
to take a stroll on the lawn, and leaving the young people to their 
amusements he led the way to a covered walk in the adjoining 
grove. I spoke of the extent to which my interest in the beautiful 
scene about us was enhanced by the associations, to which he as- 
sented and added that my observation reminded him of an occasion 
when he paced that walk as we were now doing, but with a more 
troubled heart. 

"I received" said he, "a letter from the General" (his invari- 
able synonym for his uncle) "in the spring before his death re* 

'Judge Washington'** nephew*, Bushrod W. and Noblet Herbert. 
127483°— VOL 2—20 12 1 77 



178 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

questing Mr. Marshall, as he always called the future Chief Justice, 
and myself to come to Mount Vernon. The court was sitting and 
a compliance with his request of course inconveninent, but it never 
occurred ° to either of us to postpone his business to our own. Our 
brethren of the bar readily acquiesced in a postponement of our 
causes, and we started, as was the fashion of the time, on horseback 
and with no other wardrobe that what we carried on our persons. 
I mention the latter circumstance because of an accident to which 
equestrians are peculiarly liable, having occurred to Mr. Marshall, 
which frequently exposed to view the nether extremity of his shirt, 
causing infinite amusement on the journey and much embarrassment 
at Mount Vernon. On pur arrival in the evening, the General took 
me into the library and informed me that he wished Mr. Marshall 
and myself to offer for Congress at the approaching election — Mr. 
'Marshall for Henrico district and myself for Westmoreland. As I 
resided in Richmond, altho' my property lay in Westmoreland, 
it might be safest, he said, to make a partial removal there to satisfy 
the law, which could not give me much trouble. 

"Having explained his wishes and briefly assigned his reasons 
he desired me to break the matter to Mr. Marshall so that he could 
have our answer at supper. I called Mr. Marshall out, and on this 
walk we had our consultation. We had of course the strongest 
possible desire to conform to the General's wishes, but could not 
bring our minds to any other conclusion than that to do so in this 
instance would be destructive of our prospects in the pursuit we 
preferred, and injurious to our families. Altho' it was not so with 
Marshall, I was myself deeply conscious of an unfitness for politi- 
cal life. It was made my duty to state our objections to the Gen- 
eral which I did very earnestly. He heard me through without 
interruption, and then answered in his usual grave and emphatic 
way — "Bushrod, it must be done!" With this I returned to my 
friend, still lingering in this grove in painful suspense. We re- 
sumed our walk and finally agreed that me must comply with the 
General's wishes at all hazards. We returned to him and informed 
him of our assent to his proposition. He expressed his satisfaction 
in very kind terms and said that he was sensible of the inconvenience 
to which a compliance with his views might subject us, but was 
certain that he had asked nothing from us which he would not have 
done himself if our situations had been reversed. We left Mount 
Vernon early in the morning and returned to Richmond with feel- 
ings of great anxiety. 

" I had entered upon the steps deemed advisable to qualify myself 
to represent Westmoreland when I received a letter from the Secre- 

• MS. II, p. 55. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN VAN" BTJREN. 179 

tary of State informing me that President Adams had appointed me 
one of the Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States, and 
I was advised by the same letter that a circuit court was to be held 
in Georgia in so short a time that it would be necessary to start im- 
mediately for that state if I accepted the office. I took the official 
oath immediately, threw myself into the stage coach, proceeded to 
Georgia and informed the General from that place of what I had 
done and my reasons for doing it." 

General Washington died in the month of December in the same 
year. 1 Marshall offered for the Henrico district, was elected and 
made his justly admired speech in defence of the administration for 
its course in the case of Jonathan Bobbins, which raised him at once 
to the first rank in that body. He was appointed Secretary of State 
by Mr. Adams, on the removal of Timothy Pickering, and, just before 
the end of his term, Chief Justice of the United States. 

I listened to the Judge's narrative with interest but with a painful 
sense of the danger to which it showed that Gen. Washington had 
been exposed of becoming involved in the conflicts of party, at that 
moment as violent as they have ever been, — a danger from which, 
in the inscrutable providence of God, he had been withdrawn by an 
early and otherwise premature death. No man entertained a sounder 
sense of what belonged to his position, possessed more self command 
or could be more ready to sacrifice personal feelings to the public 
good than Gen. Washington. These high traits had all been strik- 
ingly exhibited in the course of the trying years of his administration, 
as well as in his subsequent retirement. Nor was it possible that any 
extent of personal irritation could ever bring his mind to sanction 
public measures that he did not conscientiously believe would be 
beneficial to the country. He was yet a man, and as such subject 
to some extent to the passions and infirmities of his nature, and the 
state of his feelings described by Judge Washington at a period and 
under circumstances so inauspicious to their continued restraint, gives 
us reason to apprehend that had he lived longer his wise and self 
imposed reserve would have been farther and farther relaxed until 
he would have become more deeply involved in the angry conflicts 
of party than was to be desired in one who at that moment possessed, 
with rare if any exception, the warm affections and the respect of the 
whole country. 

Who can think without pain upon the consequences of his with- 
drawal from that enviable position which made the sacred appella- 
tion of Father of his Country so acceptable to all his countrymen 
and the loss of which would have robbed not only our History but 
Human Nature itself of one of the brightest glories of both. Who 

* December 14, 1798. 



180 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

that has been enabled to comprehend the violence of party spirit — 
to know that the influences neither of religion nor of kindred nor of 
any other earthly relation or situation have sufficient strength to 
avert animosities or denunciations between partisan belligerents, can 
regret that Washington's fair fame was snatched from farther ex- 
posure to that fiery ordeal, or can hesitate to acknowledge that the 
goodness of Providence which had, for his own and his Country's 
welfare, directed all his actions through his most useful and brilliant 
life, was scarcely less signally displayed in his death. 



CHAPTER XVII. 

In the course of the winter of 1824, preceding the Presidential elec- 
tion, Ninian Edwards, one of the Senators in Congress from the 
state of Illinois, set in motion the famous A. B. plot, by causing to 
be published in the "Washington Republican," newspaper, several 
articles signed with those initials, in which Mr. Crawford was 
charged with culpable mismanagement of the public funds at dif- 
ferent and remote points in the Western Country. Having thus 
sown his seed, he obtained from Mr. Monroe the appointment of 
Minister to Mexico, and after the nomination had been confirmed 
and his commission delivered him, he sent to the Speaker of the 
House of Representatives copies of those articles, with a letter avow- 
ing himself the author of them and affirming that the charges they 
contained could be supported by legal proofs if the House directed 
their investigation. At this stage in the proceedings and a short 
time before the close of the session he started on his Mission, as- 
suming from the nature of his charges and the remoteness of the 
places frpm which the testimony was to be obtained that the mat- 
ter could only be acted on in the recess, and intending that Mr. 
Crawford's friends instead of giving their attention to the election 
should find their time engrossed for the few months which yet re- 
mained before it was to take place in defending him before a commit- 
tee of investigation. 

Governor Floyd of Virginia, a political friend of Mr. Crawford, 
moved instantly for such a committee, and one was selected by Mr. 
Speaker Clay (himself a rival candidate) with equal delicacy and 
discretion. It was composed of seven of the most respectable mem- 
bers of the House, viz : Gov. Floyd, and Mr. Randolph, of Virginia, 
and Mr. Owen, of Alabama, friends of Crawford, Daniel Webster 
and John W. Tayler, supporters of Adams, Edward Livingston, who 
was in favor of Gen. Jackson, and °Gen. McArthur, of Ohio, a 
friend of Clay. 

The public mind was greatly shocked by the ruthlessness of the 
attack and was prepared to find it unfounded as well because of the 
conduct and reputation of its author as of Mr. Crawford's exemplary 
character. The Committee seemed similarly impressed and entered 
upon the immediate investigation and conducted it throughout in a 
spirit and with a degree of impartiality that reflected the highest 



— — — — _—___- _ _ ___ — _ ________ _____ 

• 110. II, ik 60. 



18] 



182 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION". 

honor upon themselves and upon the Speaker by whom they had 
been selected. Mr. Crawford was at the time confined by a disease 
which had brought him to death's door and deprived him almost 
entirely of the use of his eyes during the whole investigation. His 
friends were of course ready to render any assistance not inconsistent 
with the proprieties of their positions, but the laboring oar was in 
the hands of his Chief Clerk, Asbury Dickins, who discharged his 
duties with fidelity and consummate ability. The Defence, which was 
almost altogether prepared by Dickins, drew forth loud and earnest 
applause from friends and foes. Whilst it left no matter of fact or 
argument unattended to, it did not contain a single harsh comment 
upon the conduct of Mr. Crawford's accuser, a feature which I was 
very desirous it should possess and to which I took some pains to 
reconcile our friends who were naturally excited and justly indig- 
nant. 

The Committee immediately despatched the Sergeant at Arms 
after Edwards, who pursued him fifteen hundred miles on his way 
to Mexico. Edwards had left the prosecution of the case in the 
hands of his son-in-law, Mr. Cook, then a member of Congress, and 
holding in his hands the vote of Illinois upon the Presidential ques- 
tion in the House — where it was almost certain it would have to 
be decided, and with the cunning and unscrupulousness which char- 
acterised all his actions in the matter he evidently placed great re- 
liance on that circumstance; but in this too he was disappointed. 
The Committee satisfied themselves of the utter falsity of the charges 
before Edward's return and, to prevent him from injuring Mr. 
Crawford in the public estimation at so critical a period, made and 
published a report, 1 in part, exonerating his conduct from the 
slightest impeachment. They however thought it proper to give 
Edwards an opportunity to be heard and to that end adjourned 
to meet again after the close of the session, when he was examined, 
but proved nothing to change the character of the report which 
was reaffirmed. He resigned his appointment and sank into an 
inglorious retirement # 

Our friends being desirous that I should remain at Washington 
until the Committee reassembled, I spent the intervening time after 
the adjournment of Congress in making a visit I had long con* 
templated to Mr. Jefferson, accompanied by Gov. Mahlon Dicker- 
son. Altho 9 suffering at the time from the pressure of pecuniary em- 
barrassments, brought upon him by responsibilities incurred for an 
old friend, Mr. Jefferson received us with unaffected cordiality, and 
exerted himself cheerfully and heartily to make our visit agree- 
able. He had known and highly esteemed Gov. Dickenson when 

1 Report of select committee of the House, 18th Cong., 1st sees., vol. 6, No. 12a 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIK YAK BT7BEK. 188 

he resided at Philadelphia during the most stormy period of the 
administration of John Adams, and he referred in a lively but tol- 
erant spirit to many scenes of those stirring times, in not a few of 
which the Governor had himself been an actor, — such as his ac- 
companying Dr. Cooper (of whom I have spoken) arm in arm to 
prison upon his conviction under the sedition law, altho 9 at the time 
Recorder of the City, — and to various exciting articles which had 
appeared in the Aurora, newspaper, supposed to have been written 
by Gov. Dickerson. The gratification of the latter in finding the 
most interesting events of his early political life thus brought step 
by step under a sort of commendatory review was unconcealed and 
pleasant to witness. On the next and subsequent days, leaving the 
Governor to be entertained by our host's grand-daughter, an ac- 
complished and very agreeable young lady, now Mrs. Coolidge, 1 
of Boston, (whose future husband paid his first visit to her while 
we were at Monticello) we employed our mornings in drives about 
the neighbourhood, during which it may well be imagined with 
how much satisfaction I listened to Mr. Jefferson's conversation. 
His imposing appearance as he sat uncovered — never wearing his 
hat except when he left the carriage and often not then — and the 
earnest and impressive manner in 'which he spoke of men and 
things, are yet as fresh in my recollection as if they were experiences 
of yesterday. I have often reproached myself for having omitted 
to make memoranda of his original and always forcible observa- 
tions and never more than at the present moment. Uppermost 
in my mind is the recollection of his exemption from the slightest 
remains of party or personal prejudice against those from whom 
he had differed during the stormy period of his public life. Those 
who like myself had an opportunity to witness his remarkable free- 
dom from the common reproach of political differences would find 
it difficult to doubt the sincerity of the liberal views he expressed 
in his Inaugural Address in regard to parties and partisan con- 
tests. 

The bank of the United States was at this time in the plenitude 
of its power, and Mr. Jefferson was much disturbed by the sanc- 
tions which its pretentions received from the decisions of the Su- 
preme Court, under the lead of Chief Justice Marshall, which he 
regarded as tending to the subversion of the republican principles 
of the Government He expressed his belief that the life tenure 
of their offices was calculated to turn the minds of the Judges in 
that direction, and that the attention of our young men could not 
be more usefully employed than in considering the most effectual 
protection against the evils which threatened the Country frpni 

>Mii» Baton WaylM Randolph, late Mn. Joaepfa GooUdgfc 



\ 



184 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

that source. He spoke of the power of Impeachment with great 
severity not only as a mockery in itself, but as having exercised an 
influence in preventing a resort to a more thorough remedy, which 
he thought was only to be found in a change in the tenure of the 
judicial office. Annual appointments, as in the New England states, 
were, he thought, the best, but he would be content with four or 
even six years, and trust to experience for future reductions. Fresh 
from the Bar, and to some extent at least under the influence of 
professional prejudices, I remember to have thought his views ex- 
tremely radical, but I have lived to subscribe to their general cor- 
rectness. 

In a speech in the Senate delivered years ago 1 I referred to the 
Bank of the United States as having been the great pioneer of con- 
stitutional encroachments, and our subsequent experience has con- 
firmed the justice of the remark. It is worthy of notice that since 
that Institution has happily ceased to exist we have not only been 
exempted from any such overwhelming pecuniary convulsion as 
those caused by it, but the Supreme Court has occupied itself with 
its legitimate duties — the administration of justice between man and 
man — without being, as formerly, constantly assailed by applica- 
tions for latitudinarian constructions of the constitution in support 
of enormous corporate pretensions. We might, perhaps, have ex- 
pected that in such a calm even Mr. Jefferson's alarm, if he had lived 
to see it, would at least in some degree have subsided; but this 
state of things can only be expected to last until a similar or equally 
strong interest is brought under discussion of a character to excite 
the whole country and to enlist the sympathies of a majority of the 
Court and requiring the intervention of that high tribunal to sus- 
tain its unconstitutional assumptions by unauthorized and unre- 
strained construction. Whether the institution of domestic slavery is 
destined to be such an interest remains to be seen. The experi- 
ence of ages proves that with exceptions too few to impair the rule, 
men can not be held to the performance of delegated political trust 
without a continued and practical responsibility to those for whose 
benefit it is conferred. The theory of the independence of the Sov- 
ereign in the case of the Judges in England, which we have copied, 
entirely fails when applied to u& There} they are rendered inde- 
pendent of the Crown to secure their fidelity to the public against 
the influence of the power to which they owe their appointment 
here their life-tenure renders them independent of the People for 
whose service they are appointed. Irresponsible power of itself ex- 

* " Substance of Mr. Van Bnren's observation* in the Senate " (Feb. 12-13, 1828] a 
pamphlet of 16 pp. in which two speeches are welded Into one. Is in the Van Bares 
Papers. Cf. Congressional Debate*. It. 1 : 818, 888. 

* Me. II, p. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MABTlK VAlfT BUBEN. 185 

cites distrust, and sooner or later causes, on the part of its possessor, 
an impatience of popular control and, in the sequel, a desire to coun- 
teract popular will. The only effectual and safe remedy will be to 
amend the constitution so as to make the office elective, and thus 
compel the Judges, like the incumbents of the Executive and Legis- 
lative departments, to come before the people at stated and reason- 
able periods for a renewal of their commissions. ~ 

The subject of Internal Improvements by the General Government 
was another matter which occupied Mr. Jefferson's attention and 
caused him much concern. He spoke of it, with some feeling, as a 
mode of wasting the public revenues, without the probability of 
adequate returns, and involving violations of the constitution injuri- 
ous to the interests it professed to advance, and expressed his appro- 
bation of the course I was pursuing in regard to the system in flatter- 
ing terms. 

I derived the highest gratification from observing that his devo- 
tion to the public interest, tho 9 an octogenarian and oppressed by 
private griefs, was as ardent as it had been in his palmiest days. 
Standing upon the very brink of the grave, and forever excluded 
from any interest in the management of public concerns that was 
not common to all his fellow citizens, he seemed never to tire in his 
review of the past and in explanations of the grounds of his appre- 
hensions for the future, both obviously for my benefit. In relation 
to himself he was very reserved — taking only the slightest allowable 
notice of his agency in the transactions of which he spoke. Happen- 
ing to notice a volume in his library labelled curtly and emphatic- 
ally — " Libels " — I opened it and found its contents to consist en- 
tirely of articles abusive of himself, cut out of the Newspapers; and 
shewing it to him he laughed heartily over the brochure, and said 
that it had been his good fortune thro 9 life to be^ in an unusual 
degree, indifferent to the groundless attacks to which public men 
were exposed. My inquiries in regard to individuals who had been 
prominent actors on the political stage in his day, were naturally 
as frequent as was consistent with propriety, and his replies were 
prompt and made with apparent sincerity and absolute fairness. Of 
Gen. Washington and of his memory he invariable spoke with undis- 
guised regard and reverence. The views he took of his political 

character and career are fully stated in his letter to me of the , to 

which I shall have occasion presently to refer. The residence so near 
to each other of two such men, and the change which had taken place 
in their political relations presented an irresistible opportunity to 
mischievous busy-bodies, and no effort of theirs or of political rivalry 
or private enmity was omitted to impress Gen. Washington with a 
belief of Mr. Jefferson's ill will towards him. In speaking to me, in 
the letter I have mentioned, of the feelings of the old republicans, 



186 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

himself included, towards Gen. Washington, he uses this eloquent 
and, on its face, truthful language : 

He lived too stibrt a time after and too much withdrawn from Information 
to correct the views into which he had been deluded,. and the continued assidu- 
ities of the party drew him into the vortex of their intemperate career, sep- 
arated him still further from his real friends, and excited him to actions and 
expressions of dissatisfaction which grieved them hut could not loosen their 
affection from him. They would not suffer the temporary aberration to 
weigh against the Imnieasureable merits of his life, and altho' they tumbled 
his seducers from their places they preserved his memory embalmed in their 
hearts with undiminished love and devotion,- and there it forever will remain 
embalmed, in entire oblivion of every temporary thing which might cloud the 
glories of his splendid life. 1 

If anything could be required to establish the truth of this state- 
ment in regard to Mr. Jefferson himself it would be sufficient to 
refer to the fact that all the great statesmen, his contemporaries, have 
gone hence, and that their papers have been ransacked and pub- 
lished without reserve, as well as his own, by friends and foes, 
and that not a fragment has been found to cast a doubt upon it. 

Observing that in describing party movements he almost always 
said u The republicans " pursued this course, and "Hamilton " that— 
not naming the federalists as a party, except by the designation of 
a sole representative, I brought this peculiarity to his attention. He 
said it was a habit that he had fallen into at an early period from 
regarding almost every party demonstration during the adminis- 
trations preceding his own, as coming directly or indirectly from 
Hamilton. He spoke of him frequently and always without pre- 
judice or ill will, regarding him as a man of generous feelings and 
sincere in his political opinions. In answer to my question whether 
Hamilton participated in some step that he condemned, he replied — 
u No ! He was* above such things ! " His political principles Mr. 
Jefferson condemned without reserve, save only their sincerity, re- 
garding them in their tendency and effects as more anti-republican 
than those of any of his contemporaries. 

Mr. Jefferson's account of the humble position from which Pat- 
rick Henry raised himself to eminence and the limited means of 
education and study with which he had been able to make a never 
to be forgotten impression upon the age in which he lived, inter- 
ested me exceedingly. He described his agency in facilitating Mr. 
Henry's admission to the Bar, which was, in substance, that hap- 
pening to be in the vicinity of the residence of Mr. Henry who 
was then a clerk in a small country store, the latter called upon 
him and asked him to use his influence with Mr. Wythe and Mr. 



*A signed draft of this letter, dated June 29, 1824, by Jefferson, is la the Jefferson 
Papers, Library of Congress. Ser. 1, v. 14, 298. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN VAK BTJREBT. 187 

Pendleton to induce them to unite with him in giving a certificate 
of qualification which was necessary to enable Mr. Henry to pro- 
cure a license to practice law. In reply to Mr. Jefferson's enquiry 
in regard to the extent of his legal studies, Henry acknowledged 
that it was but very recently that he had resolved to ask admission 
to the Bar, and that he had not as yet opened a law book, but 
offered to pledge his honor that he would not practice until he 
had pursued the proper course of study. It was upon that assur- 
ance that they consented to give him a certificate, and Mr. Jefferson 
added that such was Henry's aversion to reading that he did not 
believe that he had ever read the whole of any book! Taking up 
a volume of Blair's lectures, one day at Monticello, and glancing over 
a page or two, Henry exclaimed " this is a very sensible book and 
if you will lend it to me I think I will read it." On his returning 
it months afterwards Mr. Jefferson, as a matter of curiosity, asked 
him whether he had read it through, and he acknowledged that he 
had not. In Mr. Jefferson's Autobiography, published by Congress, 
will be found a statement of similar import. Yet such was the 
strength and acuteness of his intellectual powers and so impressive 
and efficient his native eloquence, that of all the able men of whom 
Virginia then boasted there was not one whose speeches produced 
as great effect as did those of Patrick Henry. Mr. Jefferson did 
full justice to his services in the Legislature during the Revolu- 
tionary. War, and in the State Convention for the adoption of the 
Federal Constitution, and° described to me the singular effects 
produced by some of his addresses to juries. When the eminent 
position he attained as an orator as well at the Bar as in the public 
councils is considered in connection with the circumstances under 
which he was admitted to practice (as to the main facts in regard 
to which I am certain of having stated them correctly) it presents a 
most remarkable illustration of the power of genius unaided by 
education. 

Our host pressed us with much earnestness to remain a few days 
longer, when we proposed to leave, and in reply to my excuse for 
returning to Washington, the desire to be in season for the meeting 
of the A. B. Committee, he said that his experience justified him 
in assuring me that a few days would make no difference in that 
respect, as I found to be true enough. When parting from him 
he said he would take the liberty of an old man to give us some 
advice upon the subject of being in a hurry. The first fifty years 
of his life had been harassed by the habit of thinking it indispensa- 
ble that things should be done at a certain time and engagements 
kept to the moment; but upon summing up results he had found 

• MS. II, p. 70. 



188 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

that his punctuality had proved a losing business and that in a 
thousand instances things would have gone on rather better if he 
had given himself more latitude, and that subsequently he had 
adopted a different, and as the result had satisfied him, a wiser 
rule. Hoping that we would do likewise he bid us an affectionate 
farewell. In Gov. Dickerson he had met an old friend whom he 
had proved in the times which were then and long afterwards not 
inaptly called the "Reign of Terror," and whom he had not ex- 
pected to see again, and for me he manifested a regard which I 
might safely construe into an approbation of my public course, 
and I could not fail to be highly gratified by such an assurance 
from one whose character, conduct and principles formed my beau 
ideal of thorough patriotism and accomplished statesmanship. 

I had spoken of a political pamphlet by Timothy Pickering 1 
which, as appeared by the newspapers, had just made its appear- 
ance and Mr. Jefferson requested me to send him a copy — which I 
did. A few weeks afterwards I received the letter from him to 
which reference had already been made, and which accompanies 
these memoirs. I am sure that no intelligent mind can peruse it 
without being deeply interested by its graphic views of circum- 
stances and events not generally understood and in which no Amer- 
ican citizen can fail to take the deepest interest 

I visited the elder Adams, at Quincy, the next summer after I 
was at Monticello, and I do not recollect ever to have seen .a more 
striking and venerable figure than he appeared at that day. The 
traces of advanced age were more perceptible in him than in Mr. 
Jefferson, but did not appear to affect him either in mind or body, 
beyond the unavoidable infirmities of the decline of life. He re- 
ceived me kindly, and during the short period that I felt myself 
justified in occupying his attention conversed with uniform good 
sense, and a degree of animation and decision seldom witnessed in 
so old a man. * 

The Adamses, including that public spirited patriot Samuel 
Adams, were an extraordinary race and made indelible impressions 
on the times in which they lived. John Adams was, in the estima- 
tion of his successful rival, the most effective orator of the Revolu- 
tion — a post of danger as well as of honor, as was shewn by the ex- 
ception of his name, among others, from the offers of pardon which 
the Crown, from time to time, tendered to her rebellious subjects. 

I need hardly say that his greatness was not without alloy, but 
happily for his country the defects of his character did not affect 
his usefullness until after her independence had been established. 

'A Review of the Correspondence between the Hon. John Adams, late president of the 
United States and the late Wm. Cunningham, esquire * * * by Timothy Pickering. 
(Salem, 1824.) A copy is in the Library of Congress. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN VAN BTJREK. 189 

« 

Whatever these defects may have been, one thing was at all times 
clear, as Dr. Franklin, in a brief sketch of his character (quoted be- 
low and not designed, as a whole, to be particularly complimentary) 
said, "he was always honest," and so were Samuel and John Quincy 
Adams. Indeed such, to their honor be it said, has, with very rare 
exceptions, been the character of our high public functionaries at all 
periods. In the times of John Adams the political atmosphere had 
been so thoroughly purified by the Revolutionary fires that no man, 
whatever his talent or his services, who was wanting in that the 
first qualification for public trusts could have been sustained for 
a day. Arnold was corrupted by the enemy, and scorn will never 
cease to designate, with her unmoving finger, his infamy. Edmund 
Randolph who possessed the confidence of Washington and Jeffer- 
son, and was appointed by the former Secretary of State when the 
latter resigned, ranking among the highest in personal position and 
in talent, was unhappily exposed to suspicion as to his official integ- 
rity, and he fell at once to rise no more. An attempt was made to 
attach suspicion to the acts of Alexander Hamilton as Secretary of 
the Treasury — as I have heretofore described. We have seen at 
what a sacrifice he vindicated the purity of his official conduct, and 
manifested his sense of the indispensable necessity of such a vindi- 
cation whenever it should be questioned. 

It is always hazardous for one whose judgments are deductions 
from what he reads to pass upon the personal characters of public 
men, yet it is the motive and sincerity with which this is done 
which makes it excusable or otherwise. My own impression has 
always been that Mr. Adams's subsequent failure in public life 
was, in no considerable degree, owing to an overweening self esteem 
and consequent impatience under honors conferred on his cotem- 
poraries. Frequent exhibitions of this feeling, with — not too high, 
certainly — but perhaps too exclusive an appreciation of his own 
services, were, I cannot but think, among the causes of his un- 
popularity. It was this, doubtless, which gave a feverish character 
to his relations with Dr. Franklin, during their residence in Europe. 
The same causes produced wider and still more injurious effects 
on his return to the United States. The attention of public men, 
engrossed during the War by the enemy, was diverted by the peace 
and more closely directed towards each other, and anticipated 
rivalries doubtless added keenness to those examinations. The 
previous friendly relations between himself and Mr. Jefferson were, 
not improbably, then weakened and suspended : with Hamilton, who 
was himself not deficient in the same quality, he was soon in open 
hostility: he looked down upon Hancock, and an impression was 
made upon the minds of many that he yielded, with less complacency 



190 AMERICAN HISTORICAL, ASSOCIATION. 

than the other leading men of his day, to the universal preference 
accorded to Washington. These well known circumstances, in con- 
nection with his after expressed admiration of the English system, 
always excepting its corruptions, gave rise to the imputation, un- 
doubtedly unjust, that his resistance to the Crown did not arise 
so much from opposition to Monarchy in the abstract as to a natural 
preference for the House of Braintree over that of Hanover. 

The election at which he was chosen President passed off without 
anything like a partizan canvass. The seeds of future party di- 
visions had begun to sprout at the seat of Government, but in the 
country at large these divisions were yet unseen and unfelt. The 
election was suffered to drift to its conclusion without serious ef- 
forts to control its direction. In Mr. Madison's correspondence 
may be found a letter from Mr w Jefferson, authorizing °Mr. Madi- 
son to announce to the House of Representatives if the vote proved 
to be equal, as it nearly turned out to be, as the earnest desire of 
the writer that Mr. Adams might be preferred. 1 Mr. Adams was 
a man of strong feelings and those to which I have particularly 
alluded had lost none of their force by his long previous occupation 
pf an office without patronage or power. Mr. Jefferson tells us that 
consultations between them on public affairs, tho' at first invited, 
were in the end studiously avoided, and we know that his relations 
with Washington were not free from embarrassment. The latter 
had, as Commander in Chief of the Provisional Army, recommended 
for Major Generals Hamilton, Pinckney and Knox; Mr. Adams 
made the appointments, but was induced, it was supposed by his 
prejudices against Hamilton, to reverse the order by placing Knox 
first and Hamilton, last. Washington, as might have been antici- 
pated, took exception to this arrangement of the names and in- 
sisted upon the order he had proposed, which was finally adopted. 
I need not say that such a transaction could not pass to its con- 
summation without offending the feelings of both. 

Of Mr. Adams' support of the Alien and Sedition laws I have 
elsewhere spoken. These laws were the legitimate fruits of prin- 
ciples which Hamilton had instilled into the federal party yet the 
largest share of public odium they excited fell upon the head of 
Adams. Divisions arose in that party and Hamilton took ground, 
covert at first but finally avowed against his reelection. Fearless 
in spirit and bold in movement the President removed from the 
office of Secretary of State that remarkable man Timothy Pickering 
who had been appointed by Washington, but whom he suspected of 

• MS. II, p. 76. 

1 Dec. 17, 1790. In the Madison Papers, Library of Congress, It is printed In Ford's 
Works of Jefferson. (N. Y. 1904), v. 8, 254. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MABTIK VAN BUBEET. 191 

being too much influenced by Hamilton, and threw himself upon 
the country for support. 

Public services have their stipulated rewards, and all beyond, 
the People proudly regard as reserved for free-will offerings. 
Nothing is so likely to offend and repel their confidence as appeals 
for their support which wear the appearance of claims of right on 
the part of the applicant Mr. Adams found it difficult, consti- 
tuted as he was, to make any to which his enemies could not cause 
that objection to be plausibly set up. He was consequently never 
popular save during the war of the Revolution, when his appeals 
to the People were for their own interests and defence, and under 
the weight of this personal and administrational unpopularity, 
which his Revolutionary services could not surmount, he not only 
fell himself but drew down upon his party imperishable odium. 

In a letter from Dr. Franklin to Robert R. Livingston, the Sec* 
retary of Foreign Affairs to the Congress, dated " Passy 22d. July, 
1783," he alludes to Mr. Adams as follows : 

• • * It is therefore I write this, to put you on your guard (believing 
it my duty, though I know that I hazard by it a mortal enmity) and to cau- 
tion you respecting the Insinuations of this gentleman against this Court, and 
the instances he supposes of their ill will to us, which I take to be as imaginary 
as I know his fancies to be that Count de Vergennes and myself are con- 
tinually plotting against him, and employing the news writers of Europe to 
depreciate his character Ac. But as Shakespeare says, "Trifles light as 
air" Ac I am persuaded however that he means well for his jcountry, is 
always an honest man, often a wise one, but some times, and in some things, 
absolutely out of his senses. 1 

In the recently published Life and Works of John Adams, his 
grandson, the author and compiler, has incorporated in the Diary 
of Mr. Adams a paper left by him entitled' " Travels and Negotia- 
tions 9 ', which appears to have been commenced in December 1806, 
and from which the following is extracted : 

Dr. Franklin, one of my colleagues, is so generally known that I shall not 
attempt a sketch of his character at present. That he was a great genius, a 
great wit, a great humorist, a great satirist, and a great politician is certain. 
That he was a great philosopher, a great moralist, and a great statesman is 
more questionable. (Vol. Ill, p. 139.) 

Whether the venerable diarist, when the above was written, had 
been apprised of the notice which had been taken of him by his 
renowned and equally venerable co-negotiator we can never know. 
Its resemblance to an excusable retort courteous is certainly not a 
little striking. 

To return to the commencement of the administration of John 
Quincy Adams, efforts were made by its friends to excite public 

l In the Department of State, Continental Congress Mas. It is printed in Wharton, 
Diplo. Coma, (Washington, 1889), ▼. 6, 580. 



192 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

odium against its opponents by charging that their opposition was 
personal, predetermined, and made without reference to public 
measures. In this they were aided by an unwise and somewhat 
inflammatory declaration attributed to one of the South Carolina 
members. In point of fact our opposition commenced at the thres- 
hold of the new administration but our course was nevertheless not 
justly deserving of the imputations that were cast upon it. The 
fact that the election of Mr. Adams had been made against the 
known wishes of a majority of the People was at least sufficient to 
justify us in standing aloof until we were officially informed of 
the views and principles in the administration of the Government 
by which the President-elect would be guided. The vote of non- 
concurrence in the nomination of Mr. Clay as Secretary of State, 
was confined to a portion only of our friends and avowedly given 
on personal grounds. Beyond that nothing was done until the de- 
livery of the Inaugural Address in which the new President dis- 
closed the principles of his administration — principles of which 
neither he nor his Cabinet expected our support 

Mr. Adams was an honest man, not only incorruptible himself, 
but, as I have before said (and in these days it cannot be too often 
said or too favorably remembered) an enemy to venality in 
every department of the public service. He loved his country, 
desired to serve it usefully and was properly ambitious of the honor 
of doing so. At a time and under circumstances highly creditable 
to his patriotism he left his party and came to the support of Mr. 
Jefferson's administration. Knowing that in voting for the em- 
bargo he opposed the opinion of his State he resigned the place 
of Senator in Congress which he held by her appointment and 
was, in the following year, sent as Minister to Russia by Mr. Madi- 
son. He occupied several prominent public stations abroad during 
Mr. Madison's administration and was recalled at the commence- 
ment of Mr. Monroe's term to take the leading position in his cab- 
inet. The appropriate duties of these high offices, commencing 
very soon after his rupture with the federalists and continuing 
through the entire administrations erf Madison and Monroe, he dis- 
charged not only with great ability but with equal fidelity and 
honor. He doubtless embraced fully and sympathized cordially in 
the feelings and opinions of Jefferson, Madison and the republican 
party, by which they had been elected and by which alone the admin- 
istrations were sustained, on the subject of the War with England. 
The same may be said in regard to most if not all the public ques- 
tions that arose out of our foreign relations between the imposition 
of the embargo and the close of Mr. Monroe's Government. 

But such we are bound to believe was not the case in respect to 
the political creed of the old republican party on the subjects of the 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MABTIK VAST BUBEN. 198 

proper and only legitimate objects for the institution of govern- 
ments among men, and the purposes for which they should be em- 
ployed, — of the true theory of our complex Federal and State 
system in its operation upon domestic affairs, and the uses for which 
they were respectively framed and could only be rightly applied, 
and of the binding effects of written constitutions; a creed which 
having caused .the Revolution subsequently, in the same spirit and 
significancy, triumphed in 1800, °and was throughout faithfully 
sustained by Jefferson, and, with a solitary exception, by Madison. 
The influence which that party had exerted in the overthrow of the 
Founder of his House was not calculated to conciliate the feelings 
of a man- of Mr. Adams' temperament. He had too much • self 
respect to profess that, on these points his original views of opinions 
which had met with his warmest opposition in the early part of his 
political career had undergone any change. He therefore em- 
braced with avidity and supported with zeal the project of Mr. 
Monroe to obliterate the inauspicious party distinctions of the past 
and to bury the recollection of their causes and effects in a sepulchre 
proposed by himself — to wit in "the receptacle of things lost on 
earth." 

With such feelings and amidst the distractions and consequent 
temporary overthrow of the republicans he was elevated to the 
Presidency. The condition of parties at that moment, the feelings 
that pervaded them and the effects produced by the preliminary 
steps and subsequent measures of the new Administration are mat- 
ters of interesting review, at least to one who had opportunities to 
judge of them correctly and thinks himself able to speak of them 
with reasonable impartiality. 

The election of the son of the statesman whom the ancestors of 
some among them had deemed it such a triumph to overthrow in 
the great civil struggle of 1800 — a son believed to be imbued with 
many of the strong prejudices and obnoxious opinions of his 
father — as the first fruit of their own distractions, was a source 
of keen regret to the old republicans, save the comparatively few 
who had decided to follow the fortunes of Mr. Clay. The power 
which the old federal party had exerted in the recent contest and 
the alacrity and exulting spirit with which its votaries rallied to the 
standard of Mr. Adams as to a complete restoration of their influ- 
ence in the Government, soon satisfied those who had yielded to the 
idea of the extinction of that party of their delusion — a convic- 
tion mingled with self reproach. These latter, attached as strongly 

as ever to the principles of their own party, and convinced by their 

• ■ ■ ■ ■ " '■ . ' ' 

° M8. II, p. 80. 
127488°— vol 2—20 13 



194 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

unexpected defeat of the continued necessity of organisation to 
make them ascendant, became early desirous for its restoration. Al- 
ways under similar circumstances, the rank and file of a political 
party, taught by adversity the folly of their divisions, look to a 
discontinuance of them to soothe its mortification, and long delays 
in accomplishing a cordial reconciliation are invariably attributed 
to the policy and ambition of leaders. In the present case- the 
difficulties of this kind were not formidable, as the friends of Mr. 
Clay were readily made scape-goats for all delinquencies. A short 
interval to soften the minor irritations produced by the asperities 
of the canvass, and an outside pressure from the successful candi- 
date were alone necessary to the formation of a hearty and effective 
union between the friends and supporters of Jackson, Crawford 
and Calhoun. That pressure was quickly applied by Mr. Adams 
in his Inaugural Address. Believing that the steps that had been 
taken to break up old party organizations had been successful, a 
large portion of that paper 'was employed in demonstrating and 
applauding the result. The merits and demerits of the two great 
politipal parties which had divided the opinions of our country 
were, in felicitous terms, placed upon a footing of equality; the 
policy of our Government towards foreign nations was assumed 
to have been their principal source; the catastrophe of the French 
Revolution and our subsequent peace with Great Britain were al- 
luded to as having uprooted the baneful weed of party strife; no 
differences of principle, it was declared, either in relation to the 
theory of government or to our foreign intercourse, had since ex- 
isted sufficient to sustain a continued combination of parties; ani- 
mosities growing out of political contention had consequently, he 
said, been assuaged and the most discordant elements of public 
opinion blended into harmony. 

The scattered members of one of those great parties, of that, too, 
which when united had for a series of years possessed the confidence 
of the country and been intrusted with the administration of the 
government, but which had now been defeated mainly by the con- 
certed action of its old opponents — could not be expected to listen 
with complacency to this description, by their successful rival, of a 
state of things which they had discovered to be " a delusion and a 
snare." But this was not all: the new President announced among 
the subjects of Federal legislation which he favored that of Internal 
Improvement by means of Roads and Canals. He admitted that 
some diversity of opinion had prevailed in regard to the power of 
Congress over the subject, but it was alleged that a great advance 
had taken place in public sentiment in favor of the power and con- 
fident hope was expressed that its extent and limitation would soon 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN VAN BUREN. 195 

be established to the satisfaction of all, and "every speculative 
scruple solved by practical public blessings.' 9 

In his first annual Message he dwelt with much earnestness and 
at great length on the same subject — pressed the transcendant im- 
portance of the policy recommended and the obligation to promote 
it, and recommended to the persevering consideration of Congress 
" the general principle in a more enlarged extent ;" embraced among 
several other specified objects a University and Astronomical Ob- 
servatories, describing the latter as " light houses of the skies ! * — a 
name sufficiently felicitous in regard to the subject, but indiscreetly 
used as conceded by his friends in reference to the circumstances 
under which he spoke, — and closed with an admonition as to the 
consequences of attempting to excuse our failure in duty by pro- 
claiming to the world that we had allowed ourselves " to be paralized 
by the will of our Constituents." 

These papers were written with the ability for which Mr. Adams's 
pen was justly distinguished. They were filled with well- wrought 
encomiums on the Federal Constitution, plausible definitions of the 
grants and limits of powers between the General and State Govern- 
ments, and eloquent injunctions in favor of their faithful observ- 
ance ; and yet not one of the followers of the old Republican faith — 
no intelligent friend of the reserved rights of the states could fail 
to see in them the most ultra latitudinarian doctrines. The expres- 
sions which I have quoted, and especially that in which he spoke of 
the Representatives allowing themselves to be palsied by the will 
of their constituents, tho' couched in terms of professional ambiguity, 
were well calculated to strengthen that conclusion. Even Hamilton, 
who had always been placed at the head of the latitudinarians, 
whflst avowing, in the ingenuousness of his nature, his admiration 
of the British Constitution, admitted that the establishment of a 
monarchy here ought not to be attempted because it would be 
against the known wishes of the people, while it was the duty of 
their representatives to conduct the government on the principles 
elected by the constituency. 

Mr. Adams's description of the then state of public opinion in 
respect to the constitutional power of Congress over the subject of 
Internal Improvements was, in the main and particularly in 
respect of those who had constituted the great body of the Repub- 
lican party, very incorrect. It was true that several prominent 
Republicans had, after the peace, entered warmly into the support 
of that system, evidently under the impression that it was the 
path to the confidence and support of the people, and there were of 
course not a few, in every section of the country, who, stimulated by 



m*-*i 



* MS. II, p. 86. 



196 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION 

self interest, were willing to have their " speculative scruples solved " 
by so-called, " practical public blessings." But the thinking and 
disinterested minds of the party, as well as the mass who were influ- 
enced by their counsels, continued to regard the claim of this power 
as dangerous heresy and to oppose it Hy every effort — an opposition 
of which the Journals of the National Legislature through several 
administrations furnish abundant evidence. 

I never entertained a moment's doubt, after the delivery of the 
Inaugural Address, of the speedy reunion of the Republican party — 
excepting the personal adherents of Mr. Clay, but including a 
majority of its former supporters in the eastern states who had been 
drawn off to Mr. Adams by the consideration of *his being an eastern 
man. 

It suited the policy of the friends of the Administration, taking 
advantage of an article in the Albany Argus, newspaper, which was 
published without my knowledge and in well understood opposition 
to my opinions, and of the near expiration of my Senatorial term, to 
charge me, through their presses, with a concealment of my views 
in regard to the new government until I might secure my reelection.: 
hence the imputation of nanrcorwmittalimi which became thence 
forward the parrot-note of my adversaries throughout my public 
career always applied to my sayings and writings except when it 
was supposed that more injury could be done by attributing to me 
the sentiments which I meant to express. My son, CoL Van Buren, 
on his return from the campaign in Mexico, described to me an inci- 
dent amusingly illustrative of the tenacity with which this party 
catch-word of more than twenty years maintained its place in the 
vocabulary of those who had been accustomed to use it At the 
hottest moment of the battle of Monterey, when it required all* the 
circumspection of Gen. Taylor and his staff to avoid the cannonade 
of the enemy, directed against the position they occupied, Col. 
Bayjie Peyton rode up to the General with a message from Gen. 
Worth who was stationed on the opposite side of the city. Having 
made his communication, he added that a letter had been found in 
the pocket of a dead cavalry officer from Santa Anna in regard to 
whose movements and plans there was great uncertainly and of 
course great interest. " Well," said the General, " which way is he 
moving? " "Upon that point" replied the Colonel, "his letter is 
quite Van Buren-ish and leaves us altogether in the dark ! " Gen. 
Taylor, who knew enough of party politics to recognise a portion 
of its vocabulary so notorious, and to his credit as a soldier very 
little more, turned to my son at his side and said, somewhat sharply, 
"CoL Peyton, allow me to introduce you to my aid Major Van 
Buren." Peyton, altho' a violent political partisan, was a generous 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN VAN BUREN. 197 

hearted man and had, in the excitement of the moment, been un- 
mindful of my son's presence. Regardless of the constant saluta- 
tions to the company of the enemy's artillery he insisted on acquit- 
ting himself on the spot of intentional want of courtesy, either to- 
wards him or myself — for whom he protested, notwithstanding 
political difference, he had always entertained the kindest and most 
respectful feelings; which was doubtless true, and he was of course 
readily excused upon the single condition that he would allow my son 
to give me the benefit of a hearty laugh by describing the scene to me. 
There was never perhaps a more unfounded imputation, and no 
two men in the country were less in doubt in respect to my course 
than Mr. Adams and Mr. Clay. They understood too well my feel- 
ings on the subject of Mr. Monroe's fusion policy which they both 
promoted, and they had seen too much of my opposition to the 
principles and measures which they knew would become leading 
features of their administration to expect me to sustain it. I feel 
that I can say with truth that throughout my political career it 
was my invariable desire to have my opinions upon public questions 
distinctly known. I publicly answered, without hesitation or un- 
willingness, more questions put to me by opponents whom # I knew 
to have sinister purposes in putting them and whose predetermined 
votes were not to be affected by any assurances or explanations, 
than have been answered by all the Candidates for the Presidency 
together from the commencement of the Government to this day. 
Notwithstanding that these are by-gone affairs, in their time of very 
limited importance and now of none, yet in view of the extraor- 
dinary success of this partisan accusation and of its striking illus- 
tration of the power of the Press, I will record the- proof of its 
original falsity which has at this late date accidentally fallen under 
my notice. In looking over some old papers for another object, I 
accidentally laid my hand on a letter from Mr. Croswell, at the 
time Editor of the Albany Argu* 9 in which the article in that news- 
paper which was so confidently attributed to my dictation and 
which gave rise to the charge of my pursuing a non-committal 
policy in regard to the administration of Mr. Adams, is directly 
referred to. The letter is dated April 3d, 1826, and the following 
extract is all that it contains upon the subject: 

• • * I must ask you not to be surprised at the tenor of the leading 
editorial article of this morning. It has not been written without deliberation. 
The truth is, whilst there Is an increasing aversion towards Mr. Adams 
amongst the Republicans of the State, there Is a great aversion on their part 
to any collision with the administration which shall drive them to the sup- 
port of Mr. Clinton, or that shall force them to encounter the hostility of 
both. They prefer, for the present, at least, to stand in the capacity of 
lookers on, believing that the natural hostility between A and C will be 
certain of shewing itself, and the sooner if we afford them no other aliment 



198 AMERICAN HISTORICAL, ASSOCIATION. 

than themselves. It is for this reason and because it is beHeved that little 
advantage and very great evil may arise from a contrary course that we 
propose to let the National politics alone. 1 

The italicising in the above extract is my own. It thus appears 
that the position assumed by my friends at Albany was taken with- 
out my previous knowledge, and to shew how inconsistent it was 
with my known opinions and acts it is only necessary to say that 
I spent the month of March immediately preceding the date of the 
letter in earnest and active participation with the opposition in 
the Senate in their efforts to defeat the Panama Mission, and the 
month of April, in which it was written, in resisting the project 
of the Administration in respect to the Judiciary Bill. The former 
was its favorite measure, whilst it acquiesced in the loss of the 
latter rather than agree to the Jeffersonian restriction of the act 
of 1802, confining the residence of the Judges to their circuits, 
(upon which we insisted) notwithstanding our assent to the num- 
ber of Judges which they proposed, and of which they had the 
appointment, or rather nomination. 

My views in regard to the then next Presidential election were 
formally asked by that estimable man and inflexible old Republican, 
Judge William Smith, of South Carolina in an interview which 
I had with him at Boston, within three months after the commence- 
ment of Mr. Adams's Administration. I informed him that as 
Mr.° Crawford was removed from further competition by the state 
of his health my next candidate would be Andrew Jackson. To 
his questions in regard to the probability of success and to the 
safety with which we might rely on the General's present political 
opinions — his confidence on the latter point having been shaken 
by the famous letter to Mr. Monroe 2 and by the incidents of the 
last election, — I answered that by adding the General's personal 
popularity to the strength of the old Republican party which 
still acted together and for the maintenance of which the Judge 
and myself had been strenuous colaborers, we might, I thought, 
be able to compete successfully with the power and patronage of 
the Administration, then in the zenith of its prosperity; that 
we had abundant evidence that the General was at an earlier period 
well grounded in the principles of our party, and that we must 
trust to good fortune and to the effects of favorable associations 
for the removal of the rust they had contracted, in his case, by 
a protracted non-user and the prejudicial effects in that regard 
of his military life. 

1 Edwin Croswell to Van Buren, Apr. 3, 1826, in the Van Buren Papers. It is In- 
dorsed : M Origin of the non-committal charge, M. V. B. 1842." 

•MS. II, p. 90. 

'Jackson's letter of Oct 23, 1816, and a certified copy of Monroe's reply, Dec 14, to 
this and the Jackson letter of Nov. 12 are in the Jackson Papers, Library of Congress. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY* OF MARTIN VAN BUBEN. 199 

Pleased with these views the Judge asked my consent to speak 
of them freely as coming from me, which was readily given, and 
he entered upon their support with characteristic spirit It was 
at my suggestion that Gen. Jackson afterwards offered to Judge 
Smith a seat on the Bench of the Supreme Court of the United 
States, which he declined. 

From that period to the election there never was a moment in 
which my intention to oppose the reelection of Mr. Adams was not 
universally known, notwithstanding which fact the Administration 
presses succeeded extensively in imposing the non-committal fic- 
tion upon the credulity of their readers. I spent a few hours, not 
long since, with Mr. Walsh, formerly Editor and Proprietor of 
the National Register? (a journal politically opposed to me, pub- 
lished in Philadelphia) and with his amiable family, at their resi- 
dence, in Paris, and we all laughed heartily together at his allu- 
sions to some of the absurd anecdotes which the party spirit of 
that day had put in circulation on this point. Among many others 
of equal pretensions to truth he related this: — a bet was offered 
by one partisan to another that the latter could not put to me a 
question on any subject to which he would receive a definitive an- 
swer, which was accepted and the question asked was whether I 
concurred in the general opinion that the sun rose in the East; my 
answer having been that I presumed the fact was. according to the 
common impression, but, as I invariable slept until after sun-rise, 
I could not speak from my own knowledge. Mr. Walsh heard this re- 
ported by persons who believed it to be true : — a strong illustration 
of the influence of a party press and of the fatuity of a blind party 
spirit 

The acceptance by the President, in behalf of the United States, 
of an invitation received from the American States of Spanish origin 
to send a Minister to represent us at their proposed Congress at 
Panama, was the first great measure of Mr. Adams's administration. 
This extra-territorial action of the Executive branch of the Gov- 
ernment, being without precedent in its history, contrary to the 
scope and spirit of the Constitution and at variance with one of 
the most prominent recommendations of the Father of his Country 
in regard to our foreign policy, presented the first tangible point 
for the opposition which had been anticipated and could not have 
been avoided without an abandonment of cherished principles and 
which there was in truth .no disposition to avoid. 

Mr. Calhoun had, to use his own words, " taken a perfectly neutral 
position between Gen. Jackson and Mr. Adams," and there was not 
a little curiosity to learn what his course would be towards the 

» The National Gasette and Literary Register, edited by Robert Walsh. 



200 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

Administration after these developments of its views. I called 
upon him, at his residence in Georgetown, at the commencement of 
the session and found him as decidedly hostile to the Panama Mis- 
sion as I was myself. Although nothing to that effect was then 
said there was also an obvious concurrence in opinion between us 
that opposition to so prominent a measure of the Administration 
could not fail to lead to an ultimate union of efforts for its over- 
throw. This followed and from that period to the election of Gen. 
Jackson there was a general agreement in action between us, except 
in regard to the Tariff policy of which I have already spoken. 

The Panama Mission was a very imposing measure and well cal- 
culated, on first impressions, to be very popular. An assemblage 
of the free states of a Hemisphere by their representatives in one 
Congress, to deliberate upon the most effectual means to protect 
their own sovereignties, to advance the great cause of free govern- 
ments and, thro' their instrumentality > the dignity and the happi- 
ness of their people, in contrast with, and, in some degree, at least, 
in antagonism to the so-called "Holy Alliance" of the absolute 
Governments of another Hemisphere, assembled in another Con- 
gress to maintain and promote their despotic sway over the minds 
of men, was a scheme apparently well planned to captivate republi- 
can citizens. It seemed also well devised to soothe the public mind, 
to lessen the irritation unexpectedly produced by angry discussions 
during the recess growing out of the appointment of Mr. Clay and 
the doctrines broached in the Inaugural Address, and to bury the 
recollection of former discrepancies in the views of the leaders of 
the Administration by presenting them to the Country as the cor- 
dially united and enthusiastic advocates of a noble National under- 
taking. Indeed, no project could have been better adapted to pro- 
duce the latter result, for attempts to dazzle the public mind by 
gala-day measures of that description formed the ruling passion 
of Mr. Clay's political life to which he sacrificed bright prospects 
that could doubtless have been easily realized by simpler means. 

Yet it was not difficult to show that the scheme was ill-advised and 
could not fail if carried out to cause incalculable evils to the Coun- 
try. The first question was in regard to the point at which the assault 
should be commenced — whether in the Senate, on the nomination of 
the Ministers, or in the House on the appropriation for their salaries. 
Our greatest strength, in regard to talent as well as comparative 
numbers being in the Senate, that body was selected as the principal 
field of contest The nomination of Ministers was referred to the 
Committee on Foreign Affairs of which Nathaniel Macon was Chair- 
man, who made an able report against the mission. 1 Our objection 

1 Executive Proceedings * * * on * * * the mission to the*Congrew at Pan- 
ama, 1820, Jan. Id. S. Does., 19th Cong., 1st seas., No. 68 p. 57. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OP MARTIN VAN BUREN. 201 

being to the measure and not to the men nominated as Ministers, and 
therefore wholly unprecedented, I thought it a case in which the 
discussion should be public and introduced a resolution, which was 
adopted, to that effect " unless in the opinion of the President, the 
publication of documents, necessary to be referred to in debate, 
would be prejudicial to existing negotiations." 

Mr. Adams, on receiving a copy of the resolution, refused to give 
the opinion respectfully asked by the Senate, not. content with that, 
he, in his return message, said he would leave it to the Senate itself, 
(who were of course to a great extent ignorant of existing negotia- 
tions) to decide " the question of an unexampled departure from its 
own usages, and upon motives, of which, not being himself informed, 
he ° did not feel himself competent to decide." This refusal, and the 
unauthorized allusion to and virtual condemnation of our motives 
gave great offense to the Senate, and was the first act of discourtesy 
in a series of proceedings which produced unprecedented excitement 
and ill-blood as well in the Senate as in the Country. A retaliatory 
movement was proposed, but as the original resolution had been 
introduced by me, our friends conceded to me, in a great degrdfe, the 
suggestion of any action to be adopted on our part. I was sensible 
of the importance of the proposed opportunity to repel the censure 
that was cast upon us for obstructing the passage of a measure repre- 
sented by the Administration press to be eminently patriotic, but my 
anxiety to avoid anything that might be construed as a factious 
opposition was so strong as to induce me to prefer to waive it, which 
was accordingly done. 

The discussions occupied several weeks and became earnest and 
sometimes violent. After unmistakable indications of effects pro- 
duced by Governmental influence, the nominations were confirmed 
by a vote of 24 to 20, 1 and the measure received the sanction of both 
Houses of Congress, but it was undeniably thoroughly discredited 
with the Country by the opposition it had received. The Ministers 
went out but they found no Congress. Several of the Treaties among 
the South American States authorizing it were not ratified by them, 
nor were any other steps taken to carry the plan into effect. 

This general abandonment of the grand enterprise by its putative 
fathers, together with suspicious signs in the correspondence, satis- 
fied me that altho' it had been apparently organized in South Amer- 

*MB. II, p. 95. 

1 Witb Van Buren voted Findlay of Pennsylvania, Chandler and Holmes of Maine, 
Woodbury of New Hampshire, Dickerson of New Jersey, and Kane of Illinois, making 
•eren Northern and twelve Southern senator.'*. Against Van Buren were eight sena- 
tor! from 81ave States, Barton of Missouri, Boullgny and Johnston of Louisiana, Cham- 
ber! of Alabama, Clayton and Van Dyke of Delaware, Richard M. Johnson of Kentucky 
and Smith of Maryland. It was an incipient but a true party division. — Shepard, Martin 

Van Buren, American Statesmen Series (Boston and New York, 1899), p, 181. 

| 
i 



202 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

ica, the inspiration which suggested it was of Washington origin. 
Mr. Adams, in his next annual Message, sang a graceful requiem over 
the lost project, accompanied by exculpatory observations to which, 
as no danger of resurrection was apprehended, there was no reply. 
A copy of a speech delivered by me on the subject will be found 
in - 1 

1 The pemphlet, edition of Van Buren's speech, Washington City, Gales & Beaton, 1828, 
41 pp. 8° is in the Van Buren Papers under date of March 14. 



CHAPTER XVIII. 

The proposition for the Mission to Panama was accompanied by 
a measure not less obnoxious to public feeling and alike indicative 
of great ignorance of the current of public sentiment on the part 
of the President and his Secretary of State, or a recklessness in 
encountering it in the prosecution of favorite schemes inconsistent 
with the character of prudent statesmen! That which* we have just 
described was pressed upon the Country in open disregard of a 
familiar principle in our foreign policy,. the observance of which 
had been coeval with our Government and which had acquired a 
permanent and favorable lodgment in the public mind. The measure 
now referred to was the concession to Great Britain by treaty 
stipulation of the Eight of Search to prevent the 1 prosecution of 
the slave trade under our flag, a pretension against which, when 
attempted to be put in practice for the purpose of recovering British 
seamen from our service, we had waged a war — the cause of which 
was yet fresh in the recollection of the People, as well as the irri- 
tations produced by it. 

We opposed the treaty and defeated it by a decided vote.* The 
condition of the Country in its foreign and domestic relations was 
so favorable at this time that with discreet men at the head of the 
Government, and ordinary prudence in the conduct of its affairs, 
there could not have been the slightest doubt of the success of the 
Administration, but unfortunately, as well for the Country as for 
themselves, neither Mr. Adams nor Mr. Clay were either discreet 
by nature or instilled by experience with a proper appreciation of 
the humble virtue of prudence in the direction of public business. 
Munificently endowed with genius and talents, their passion for 
brilliant effects, of which I have spoken as peculiar to Mr. Clay 
but which was common to both, was not crowned with a degree 
of success proportionate to the hazard of its indulgence. In the 
career of the military leader this is often otherwise, but in the 
administration . of civil affairs statesmen of sober judgment and 

1 The Convention with Great Britain was Anally disposed of by the Senate May 22, 
1824. The votes on the various amendments are given in the Executive Journal of 
the 8enate (Washington, 1828) V. 8, pp. 880-887. As ratified, by a vote of 29 to 13, 
tbe convention was well nigh worthless as a means of suppressing the American slave 
trade. For the final end of this negotiation see Clay's letter to Addington, Apr. 6, 1825, 
In American State Papers, Foreign 6, No. 414, p. 788. 

203 



204 AMEBICAK HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 



i 
i 

• i 



prudence though possessed of less shining talents are generally the 
most prosperous. 

Among other occurrences at the seat of Government during this 
stirring period the duel between Mr. Clay and Mr. John Randolph 
produced by a denunciation of the Administration on the floor of 
the Senate, by the latter, as a " coalition between the puritan and 
the blackleg " was one of the most exciting. In his " Thirty Years' 
View," Colonel Benton has given an account— clever and impar- 
tial — of this affair. The subject was frequently adverted to by 
Mr. Randolph during our rides together and the details recited 
in his peculiar way. He invariably admitted that laying out of 
view the place where the offensive words were spoken and its im- 
munities, whidi he said he had waived as far as he could, Mr. Clay 
had incurred no blame in calling him to the field. On one occa- 
sion he told me that the latter had been six years in bringing his 
mind to that point, during which he had, on several occasions, fur- 
nished him ground for such a step, but as he had always given 
the offense in a way that left it optional with Mr. Clay to give 
the matter thai) direction or to let it pass, he had taken the lat- 
ter course. Perhaps no man ever lived more qualified to do such 
a thing successfully than Randolph. He insisted that he at no 
time intended to take Mr. Clay's life and assigned as a reason 
his respect for Mrs. Clay and his unwillingness to make her unhappy, 
but he admitted that, after certain occurrences, he had determined 
to wound him in the leg — his failure to accomplish which design 
he attributed to an anxiety' to avoid the kneepa/n, to hit which he 
regarded as murder/ 

Mr. Randolph's intemperate speeches during the whole of the 
Panama discussion attracted a large share of the public attention, 
and the Vice President was much censured by portions of the public 
press for omitting to call him to order. Randolph justified himself 
on the ground that a corrupt and tyranical administration could not 
be overthrown without violence, and quoted in his defence the 
text of scripture which says "the Kingdom of Heaven suffereth 
violence and the violent take it by force.' 9 Mr. Calhoun held that 
he did not possess the power to call a senator to order, as the 
rules conferred that power on the members of the body only — 
that he could not claim it by implication, and that as he was not 
placed oyer the body by their own choice or responsible to them, he 
ought not in so delicate a matter to act upon doubtful authority. 
He therefore, very properly called upon the Senate to express its 
opinion upon the subject, and to confer the power upon him by their 
rules if they wished him to exercise it and if they concurred with 
him in supposing that he did not already possess it This led to 
an elaborate discussion of the question and of the true construe- 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MABTIK VAN BUSEK. 205 

lion of the Constitution in regard to implied powers, in which I 

took part and delivered a speech which will be found in .* 

Mr. Randolph* was in every way a most extraordinary man, and 
occupied wherever he went a large share of public attention. There 

was not a session of Congress during his years service as a 

member in which his sayings and doings did not contribute the 
principal staple of the political gossip at Washington. This was 
particularly the case at the commencement of Mr. Adams's ad- 
ministration, when he appeared for the first time in the Senate 
where his whole course was one of annoyance to his opponents and 
of not a little uneasiness to his friends. He spoke day in and day 
out, and sometimes for several successive days, upon matters and 
things in general having political and personal bearings but not 
always even directed to the business before the Senate — an abuse 
in which others have since been largely participant, but in which 
perhaps there has never been so great an offender. His speeches 
attracted great attention from the severity of his invectives, the 
piquancy of his sarcasms, the ° piercing intonation of his voice and 
his peculiarly expressive gesticulation. He could launch imputa- 
tions by a look, a shake of his long figure, or a shrug of his 
shoulders, accompanied by a few otherwise commonplace words, 
which it would require in others a long harangue to express. These 
rare oratorical accomplishments were never suffered to grow rusty 
for want of use, and he kept us in constant apprehension that he 
would still further thin our ranks in the Senate, already some- 
what weeded by Executive favours, by the character of the stimu- 
lus with which he was in the habit of urging the sluggish zeal of 
some of our brethren. He had for some time been desirous to take 
in hand the case of John Holmes, of Maine, whose party fidelity 
was doubted by his associates long before he quitted them, and 
Randolph at length found a more justifiable ground for his assault 
than he could have anticipated. Holmes had made a speech which 
Bandolph thought bore upon its face satisfactory evidence of being 
designed to propitiate the Administration, and either in it, or in 
some collateral remarks, had spoken of the Vice President and 
himself as personal friends. Bandolph, finding these remarks in 
the papers, called the attention of the Senate to the subject, denied 
the right of Mr. Holmes or any other person to define his personal 
relations in delicate and guarded terms but in a way entirely 
respectful to that Senator, and, as an excuse for not saying what 
lie now said when the remark was made, explained that he had 
not heard it and presumed, it^ust have been made whilst he was 

* See Holland's Life of Van Buren (Hartford, 1886) p. 279 for a long extract of this 
speech and note to pi 104 " Substance of Mr. Van Bnren*s observation* in the Senate/' 

• MB. II, p, 100. 



206 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

out of the Senate. Holmes, thrown off his guard by the courteous 
manner in which Randolph had excused his omission to notice the 
circumstance on the spot, not only insisted that Randolph was in 
his seat, but that he heard the remarks to which he now took ex- 
ception, and evinced a degree of pertinacity in doing so which 
amounted to rudeness. From the moment that Randolph under- 
stood such to be the drift of Holmes' remarks, his face assumed 
its sternest expression, and he sat stiffly in his chair with folded 
arms, manifestly tortured with suppressed rage. On Holmes' re- 
suming his seat, he rose and recapitulated, with a self possession 
that surprised us, what had occurred — shewed the length he had 
gone to satisfy thef Senator from Maine that he had no cause of 
complaint in the matter referred to and the persistence of that 
Senator in an attempt to impeach his veracity. Having done this 
in a cold and nnimpassioned manner, his appearance and style 
suddenly changed, and he charged Holmes with a premeditated 
design to make a personal attack upon him as a peace offering to 
the Administration, and a prelude to his political apostacy, and 
proceeded in an assault the most severely personal that had per- 
haps ever been heard within that chamber and seeming at the 
moment to annihilate his antagonist. 

Altho' of course there were repeated cries of " Order ! Order !" 
there was no specific and responsible call, and, if there had been, 
his words were so skillfully chosen and his peculiar gestures con- 
tributed so largely to the conveyance of the most offensive imputa- 
tions, that a Senator calling him to order would have found the 
greatest difficulty in writing down, as the rule required, the disor- 
derly words on which the motion could be founded. The Senate im- 
mediately adjourned under great excitement Randolph came to me 
and insisted that I should go home and dine with him, and on our 
way to his lodgings I remonstrated with him on his course in break- 
ing down our party strength, admitted that Holmes had given him 
a fair excuse for a reply of great severity, but not for an attack like 
that he had made which would unavoidably drive him from our 
ranks. " I deny that," he vehemently replied, u I have not driven 
him away.- He was already a deserter in his heart;. if you examine 
the body you will find that the wound is in the back/" 

1 could not at the time account for the respectful And mild char- 
acter of his preliminary explanations to Holmes, as I knew the state 
of his feelings towards him, but was in the en$ satisfied that it was 
a part of his design to make sure of his victim by first putting him 
as far as possible in the wrong. This affair was the cause of an 
extraordinary scene in the Senate a few days afterwards* 

Mr. Randolph's speeches became more and more annoying, to the 
Administration and its friends, in and out of the Senate, and yet 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN VAST BTTBEN. 207 

no one seemed willing to incur the responsibility of calling him 
to order. I inferred from circumstances a design on the part of the 
administration Senators to administer a corrective to Mr. Randolph 
by severally quitting their seats when he was speaking to an extent 
sufficient to leave the Senate without a quorum. This was practicable 
as the call of the House, usual in the other branch of Congress, was 
unknown in our body. Having engaged one day to dine with my 
friend Gen. Van Rensselaer at an hour earlier than the ordinary 
adjournment of the Senate, I gave Randolph notice in the morning 
of the necessity I should be under of leaving whilst he was speaking 
and of my desire to avoid setting such an example on account of my 
suspicion as to the game of our opponents. He promised to close his 
speech in season, but did not. Whey my hour arrived I held up my 
watch, and he pointed to the door. I left and the example was 
quickly followed by the members of the opposition ; in a very short 
time the flag of the Senate was lowered and the body adjourned for 
want of a quorum. This unusual proceeding having been once 
adopted — was soon to a considerable extent, converted into a prac- 
tice, to the great annoyance of Randolph whose vanity was wounded 
by an apparent indifference* to his speeches which he had seldom ex- * 
perienced and was little able to brook. The circumstance sensibly 
increased the bitterness of his denunciations and finally led to that 
which caused the duel between himself and Mr. Clay whose im- 
patient spirit could no longer endure the invectives which were 
incessantly hurled at him by Randolph. 

He [Randolph] visited Virginia soon after and whilst there became 
satisfied that his chance for a reelection was far from favorable. 
This increased the acerbity of his temper, and he returned to Wash- 
ington with a determination to leave it for England almost immedi- 
ately. He sent a message to me, on his arrival, asking me to call upon 
him at his old quarters. Being engaged in the Senate, it was not in 
my power to do so before the adjournment, of which I informed him 
by a note, adding also that I should expect him to dine with me, 
When I reached his lodgings I entered what I supposed to be his bed- 
room, but which proved to be that of Mark Alexander, a member of 
the House from Virginia. I found Randolph booted and spurred, 
stretched at full length on his colleague's bed, and fast asleep, with 
his letters and papers scattered about him. I was so much inter- 
ested in the appearance of his tall and gaunt figure, extending be- 
yond the foot of the bed, and in observing the striking resemblance 
of his features to the Indian race, from which it was his pride to 
claim descent, that some moments elapsed before I could make up 
my mind to awaken him. When we reached my lodgings and found 
that the members of the Diplomatic Corps were expected guests, 



208 AMERICAN HISTORICAL, ASSOCIATION. 

some of whom indeed had already arrived, he for a few moments 
insisted on returning, but, as I had foreseen, he was easily induced 
to abandon that idea, and I could not have afforded my company 
a greater treat than was furnished by his presence. He took the 
parole at once, and kept it till a late hour, talking upon a great 
variety of subjects with more than his usual ability and with the 
most entertaining raciness and originality. He began the meal with 
calling for toast-water, pleading that wine was too string for him, 
but yielding to the excitement of conversation and the grateful con- 
sciousness of appreciative listeners he gradually advanced through 
wine and water to wine, brandy and water and, before he left, to 
clear brandy. After the company retired he sat with me 'till long 
after midnight describing the condition of things in Virginia, and 
his reasons for apprehending his defeat at the Senatorial election. 
Mr. Tyler, who had 'till that time always been in the Republican 
ranks, wojild, he said, be brought forward as a Candidate or sup- 
ported by his enemies and his explanation of the causes which 
would induce a sufficient number of Republican members to vote 
with them, brought into view the hostility which had at different 
periods of his life existed between himself and Jefferson, Madison, 
Monroe and others and of which he gave me graphic and very in- 
teresting accounts. Having engaged no lodgings, in consequence of 
a determination, as he declared, never again to "have any in that 
corrupt hole" (as he called Washington), I sent my servant out to 
find a bed for him and afterwards to conduct him to it. 

On the following morning he appeared in the Senate, dressed with 
unusual care and apparently in excellent spirits, having ordered his 
carriage to be sent to the Capitol, with his luggage, at noon, to con- 
vey him to Baltimore. Mr. Calhoun had, at his instance, appointed 
him a member of the Committee on Rules and his object, in coming 
to the Senate, was to report one or two very proper amendments to 
the standing rules of the body. 

Mr. Holmes had manifested more sensibility in regard to Ran- 
dolph's attack upon him that was supposed to belong to his nature, 
and his inflamed appearance after it, in the Senate excited the appre- 
hensions of his friends in regard to his habits. His excitement on 
the morning referred to was greater than usnal and he carried a 
huge cane which indicated that he meditated or expected a personal 
attack. He took the floor immediately after Randolph resumed his 
seat and read from a paper a series of amendments of the Rules 
which he proposed. These with scarcely an exception referred to 
acts with which Randolph had been charged and which it was pro- 
posed thereafter to prohibit. Among them was one declaring it a 

• MS. II, p. 105. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN VAN BtJREN. 200 

violation of order in a Senator to make personal references to gentle- 
men who had been introduced on the floor of the Senate by other 
Senators. Mr. Russell, 1 of Boston, Editor of the Colwmbim Cmti- 
nel, a newspaper which had made a reckless opposition to the War 
of 1812, had been so introduced during the session, and Randolph 
had attracted the attention of the body to him by a general and 
seemingly not personal reference to a notorious feature in his polit- 
ical career; it was at that occurrence that the proposed amendment 
was aimed. 

Immediately after Holmes finished the reading of his propositions, 
Randolph asked Mr. Tazewell, "his colleague, to take the clerk's seat, 
and to write, as he dictated, a series of amendments to them " in the 
form of instructions to the Committee,"— designed as answers to 
them by successive recriminations. Mr. Tazewell, one of the best 
tempered men I ever knew, complied, and when the proposition 
which I have particularized was reached, under the impression that 
Russell had been introduced by Holmes, Randolph dictated the dec- 
laration, as an amendment, that the " personal reference " which it 
was now designed to stigmatize as disorderly was no more than a 
suitable reproof of the Senator who was so wanting in a sense of 
what was due to the dignity of the Senate and to his own character 
as to introduce such a man within the Bar ! 

At this point the affair received an unexpected complication. 
Senator Lloyd of Massachusetts, a man of undoubted courage, who 
felt no insurmountable scruples upon the subject of private com- 
bat, and between whom and Randolph there had already occurred 
some newspaper sparring, sprang to his feet the moment the offen- 
sive words were uttered, announced himself as the Senator who 
had introduced Russell, repelled with great vehemence every as- 
sault upon that gentleman, whom he pronounced to be quite equal 
in respectability to Randolph himself, and indignantly shaking his 
closed hand at the latter, declared his readiness to give him satis- 
faction there or elsewhere ! Randolph, entirely taken by surprise, 
sought an opportunity to explain, and disclaimed all hostile feelings 
towards Lloyd ; but the latter could neither be appeased or silenced 
and continued his miiflttory gestures and denunciations with un r 
diminished vehemence. In this condition of things Mr. King, of 
Alabama, called both the Senators to order, and Mr. Calhoun re- 
quested him to reduce the objectionable words to writing, as re- 
quired by the Rules. Sensible of the difficulty of committing to 
paper expressions used in such a squabble, which was yet going 
on, Mr. King declined to do so, and in the excitement of the moment 
said abruptly, that he would not! Mr. Calhoun, anxious from 

1 Benjamin Xtauell. 
127488°— vol 2—20 14 



210 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION". 

what had passed, to do his whole duty when a case occurred within 
the Rules, rose from his seat and, pale with agitation, said "The 
Chair orders the Senator from Alabama to reduce the words to 
writing." The Senate at this moment presented a striking tableau — 
Calhoun, King, Lloyd And Randolph on their feet, intensely ex- 
cited, and every Senator present inclining from political and per- 
sonal sympathy to take sides in the fray — when the last moved 
deliberately from his place, which was on the extreme outer range 
of seats, and passed in front of the Chair to the door, exclaiming 
as he walked along, "I will have no more of this! I am off for 
England! Good bye, Tazewell! Good bye, Van Bur en I They are 
all against me! They are all against me Tazewell, in Virginia 
too ! " — and still uttering these words the- doors of the Senate closed 
behind him. 

The Vice President and Messrs. Lloyd and King resumed their 
seats: Mr. Tazewell returned to his place leaving his unfinished 
papers on the Clerk's desk and for a little while nothing was said 
or done. A sense of relief from the excitement in which Randolph 
lived and moved and had his being, as his native element, prevailed, 
and the Senate after a pause took up the order of the day without, 
either then or at any future time, giving further attention to the 
proposed amendments/ 

• This account of these proceedings is according to my best recollection of them, which 
is unusually fresh, as the subject Is one to which my attention has been frequently 
directed, and of which I have often spoken. Mr. Tazewell's officiating as Secretary is 
entirely lelt out in the published proceedings, a point in which I know I cannot be mis- 
taken, and a form given to the whole proceedings in some respects more consistent with 
the dignity of the body, about which the gentlemen charged with the publication of the 
details were always, much to their credit, very solicitous. Some allowance is certainly 
due to that consideration, in Judging of the partial, and not very Important, differences 
between their account and mine, which I cannot but think conveys with substantial 
accuracy their true character. 



• • 



CHAPTER XIX. 

An act for the relief of the officers of the Army of the Revolution 
in relation to their half -pay became a law about this time, and upon 
its passage I delivered the speech which will be found in * 

Its merits will doubtless be found to fall below the reputation it 
acquired, yet I derived as much satisfaction from the effect it was 
believed to have produced as from anything in my legislative expe- 
rience. The Bill had been long under discussion, ^nd the Senate 
bad adjourned on the previous day on my motion, which constituted 
a notice according to usage that it was my intention to address the 
Senate upon the subject. Before the hour arrived for taking up the 
order of the day my friends pressed me not to speak as the Senate 
had been sufficiently canvassed to make the defeat of the Bill cer- 
tain. Louis McLane of Delaware, a member of the Senate, and a 
son of one of the officers for whose relief it was the object of the 
measure to provide, backed this advice so earnestly that I was in- 
duced to yield to it. When the Bill was announced the Vice Presi- 
dent turned his eyes towards my seat ancPseeing no intention on my 
part, or on that of any other Senator to speak, rose and stated that 
the question would be on final passage and was in the act of taking 
the sense of the Senate upon it when two ladies, friends of mine, 
who had come to the Senate to hear me, shook their fans at me in 
token of their disappointment and I rose from my seat intending to 
go to them with an apology. The Vice President assuming that I 
rose to speak aflpounoed "the Senator for New York" and, suddenly 
changing my mind, I proceeded to address the Senate, at length, in 
favor of the Bill. 

When I had concluded, Gov. Branch, 9 of North Carolina, an 
impulsive but always honest man, who had been violently opposed to 
the proposed measure, moved to adjourn the question saying that 
views of the subject had been presented which were new and upon 
which he desired an apportunity to reflect. His colleague, the 
venerable Macon, scouted the idea of an adjournment, said that 
a good speech had undoubtedly been made, but that lawyers knew 
how to make good speeches on either side of any question, and 
hoped that the Senate would without further debate proceed to the 
vote and reject the Bill. 

1 Gales and 8eaton*s Register of Debates, under date of Jan. 28, 1828, vol. 4, pt 1, 
187-182. 
'John Branch. 
* MS. II, p. 110. 

211 



212 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION". 

Gov. Branch replied with feeling that his coarse in regard to it 
was well known, that he had several times spoken against it, but that 
he had no other feeling in the matter than a desire to do right and 
that unless the views which had now been taken of the subject were 
satisfactorily refuted, he would, if driven to the vote, support the 
Bill. This declaration produced an adjournment It was soon dis- 
covered that others had also given way and a proposition was sub- 
mitted to us the next morning that if we would accept certain amend- 
ments, of a character not very objectionable, a sufficient number 
would change their votes to secure a majority. We consented Mid 
the Bill became a law 1 — gladdening the hearts of many yet sur- 
viving soldiery of the Revolution and of the descendants of their 
departed brottiers-in-arms, by the appropriation of large sums of 
money in satisfaction of their just claims. 

Imprisonment for debt, the rigour of which had been greatly 
relaxed by state laws, being still in force against debtors to the 
United States, attracted a considerable portion of the attention of 
the Congress. My own efforts for its abolition commenced in the 
State Legislature at an early period of my connection with that 
body and were continued in the Senate of the United States in con- 
junction with Col. Richard M. Johnson, whose truly philanthropic 
feelings made him an enthusiast in the cause. 

My plan from the beginning was : 

1st To provide for the most searching inquiries into the prop- 
erty of the debtor, however invested, and to arm the creditor with 
all necessary facilities to secure the application of it to the pay- 
ment of his debts ; and 

2d To punish fraudulent concealments as crimes, by confinement, 
upon executions, to the walls of the prison. * (ft 

Those facilities being secured to the creditor, I regarded every 
other lien on the body of his debtor as alike inhuman and immoral, 
and advocated a repeal of the law by which it was authorized. 
The subsequent adoption of these views of the subject and the 
extent to which a practice, that had become, by inflicting punish- 
ment upon misfortune, the opprobrium of the age, has accordingly 
been abrogated, is highly honorable to the country. Although a 
professional man, not wanting in esprit du corps, I yet must admit 
that this great reform is perhaps indebted for its success less to 
our lawyers and merchants than to almost any other class. I goner- 
ally found them the most obdurate and inflexible in their adherence 
to the old system arising rather from the force of habit than from 
less humane or less liberal dispositions. The merchant had been 
educated to look upon the security founded on the fear of imprison- 

1 Approved Feb. 12, 1828, 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN VAN BUREN. 218 

ment as a vital element in a well regulated credit system, and the 
lawyer had been blinded to the immorality of such liens by the long 
and frequent enforcement of them under the sanction and with the 
cooperation of the Courts. But all such ideas and arguments have 
been exploded by the steady progress of liberal opinions, and there 
are none now who would more cordially resist the restoration of 
imprisonment for debt, in the absence of fraud, than those classes. 
So certain and so generous indeed is now the indulgence of the 
American Merchant to his unfortunate debtor as to place him in 
that respect in a more creditable position than is occupied by his 
mercantile cotemporaries in any part of the world. 

The subject of a Bankrupt Law was also seriously agitated in 
the Senate whilst I was a member of that body. The abuses prac- 
tised under the law of 1800 not only led to its speedy repeal but 
attracted a degree of odium to the system itself which prevented 
its reenactment until 184- ; a spasmodic effort was then made to 
close up the appalling chasm which had been made in the business 
relations of the Country through the instrumentality of a Bankrupt 
law, which, so soon as it had effected a sort of general jail delivery, 
was, like its predecessor, sent to an early and ignominious grave. 

During that long interval there had been several unsuccessful 
attempts to revive the system. Mr. Hayne, 1 of South Carolina, who 
had moved in the matter previously, introduced, upon leave, at the 
commencement of the session of 1827 U A Bill, to establish a uni- 
form system of Bankruptcy throughout the United States." It 
contained the usual provisions applicable to merchants and traders, 
and also a section (the 93d) extending to all classes, whether traders 
or not, upon the principle of an Insolvent law, and was referred 
to a select committee composed of Messrs. Hayne, Berrien, Silsbee, 
Smith of Maryland, Johnson of Kentucky, Sandford ' and myself. 

The proceedings of this Committee and the action of the Senate 
upon them have been kept fresh in my recollection by the striking 
exhibitions they afforded of the working of that spirit of rivalry 
so common to political life and so influential in the business of 
legislation. The leading and most active friends of the proposed 
Bill were Col. Hayne, the Chairman of the Committee, and Judge 
Berrien/ of Georgia. They were co-adjutors in politics and among 
the foremost in organising and forwarding the Party then in course 
of development which had for its objects the overthrow of the 
existing Administration and the election of Gen. Jackson. Col. 
Hayne possessed a lively imagination and an intelligent and dis- 

* Robert Y. Hayne. 

• Nathaniel Silsbee of Maemchosetta ; Samuel Smith, Richard M. Johnson, and Nathan 
Sandford, of New York. 

'John Macpheraon Berrien. 



214 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

criminating mind. Judge Berrien was not less highly favored in 
both respects, and had besides, acquired a greater Wariness in debate 
by a long and more busy professional life. They were both am- 
bitious and looked forward, as they had a right to do, to high rank 
in the party of which they were members. 

When called upon in the Commitee for my opinion of the Bill, 
I declared myself ready to rote for a Bankrupt law proper, appli- 
cable to merchants and traders, but opposed to the ninety-third 
section as unauthorized by the Constitution and in every respect 
inexpedient. I was prepared to assign the reasons which had 
brought my mind to those conclusions but was prevented from doing 
so by finding no disposition such as I had anticipated, on the part 
of the leading supporters of the measure in its original shape, to 
make me a convert to their opinions. The sense of the Committee 
was at once taken and a majority declared in favor of the whole 
Bill. Differences of opinion in regard to the disputed section were 
regarded with indulgence as results which had been expected, and 
dissentients were referred to the Senate Chamber for the explana- 
tion and vindication of their views. 

I was certainly somewhat piqued at this course but having wit- 
nessed similar proceedings among political friends when acting upon 
subjects supposed to be of great interest in the public mind I de- 
termined to be no further influenced by it than to give the Bill a 
more thorough examination after stating more distinctly to the 
committee my intention to° oppose it if the objectionable clause 
was retained. I went to the Senate intending to confine myself 
to a simple and brief statement of the ground I occupied, notwith- 
standing that I had, as I believed, made myself master of the sub- 
ject and notwithstanding the feelings produced by my construc- 
tion of the course pursued in the committee. I came to this con- 
clusion because my support even of the constitutional parts of the 
Bill was little more than an acquiescence in the opinions and wishes 
of my friends — my own impressions being then as they have been 
since that the frauds inseparable from the execution of a national 
bankrupt system are likely to outweigh its advantages and I could 
therefore feel no great solicitude for its passage. Besides I feared 
that I could not present the encroachment of the ninety-third sec- 
tion upon a state sovereignty in its details and in the proportions 
which the subject allowed without mortifying the pride of my 
southern friends by holding them up to their constituents as un- 
faithful to a principle which was the corner stone of our Party and 
particularly so regarded in the states they represented. 

• MS. II, p. IIS. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN VAN BUREN. 215 

A motion was made by Gov. Branch to strike out the 93d section, 
and upon this and other motions a debate ensued which occupied the 
Senate for more than a week. When the question was about to be 
taken I made the brief statement I contemplated, and which ap- 
pears in the Congressional Debates. The motion failed, and the 
section was retained by a vote which indicated the passage of the 
whole Bill, but a motion to reconsider was made the next morning 
by Senator Barton of Missouri, who had upon more reflection 
changed his opinion and was now against the section. On this mo- 
tion the debate wa§ renewed embracing the whole subject and in 
the course of it the principles I had briefly advanced were reviewed 
to an extent that made it my duty to sustain them. I thereupon 
delivered a speech of considerable length which was not published 
for the reasons assigned by Gales & Seaton in their volume of the 
debates of that session, but which I have always regarded as the 
most successful of my senatorial efforts. 1 Whatever may have been 
its merits, or its lack of them, there was no difference of opinion 
as to its effects upon the disposition of the question. It placed the 
provisions of the ninety-third section in lights that had not before 
occurred to many of those who sustained it and made them anxious 
to get rid of it without an immediate change of votes. They be- 
came in consequence disaffected to the Bill, and, although the vote 
on the section was substantially the same as before, the whole Bill 
was rejected by a vote of 25 to IS. On motion of Col. Hayne it 
was recommitted to the select Committee with instructions to strike 
out the obnoxious section, and in that form reported to the Senate 
where protracted efforts were made for its passage, but without 



UpoA the conclusion of my speech the Senate adjourned and 
before I had left my seat Messrs. Hayne and Berrien approached 
me with vehement complaints of the course things had taken and 
of my agency in producing it. I proposed to them to join me in 
the carriage and to talk the matter over on our way to our lodgings. 
Our conversation was of that eager and earnest character usual to 
Southern men when highly excited. Judge Berrien being asked 
to specify the ground of his complaint said that I had taken them 
by surprise — not having given them reason to expect that I would 
oppose the ninety-third section in debate altho' I had disapproved 
of it. CoL Hayne, however, without waiting for my reply, ex- 

1 Van Buren spoke on the bill on Jan. 23, 25, 26, and 27 and again on Feb. 1, 1827. 
The survtrlng portions of these speeches are In Galen and Beaton's Register of Debates, 
toL 8, 82, 104, 119, 121, 160 and 226. The principal speech was delivered on Jan. 27 
and under that date Gales and Seaton (3, 160) explain that this and Van Buren's pre- 
ceding speeches are not reported because their reports, forwarded to Van Buren for 
revision, were mislaid by him. Van Buren's auto-notes for his speech are In the Van. 
Buren Papers under date of Jan. 23, 1827. 



216 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

claimed that he felt bound to admit on the contrary that I had 
given them distinct notice that I would make active opposition to 
the Bill if that section was retained: — "But what I complained 
of " said he, " is that Mr. Van Buren did not state his objections, 
which now appear to have been of so grave a character, that he 
did not make an effort to convince us of their importance and give 
us such information upon the subject that we might have been 
prepared either to admit their weight or to rebut them." 

I at once admitted that this complaint would have been well 
founded had not circumstances occurred which excused me from 
doing what he suggested, and informed them that I attended the 
Committee intending to give them a candid account of the [my] 
reasons but their attitude compelled me to think that they did not 
desire me to do it. We could not agree entirely as to all the facts 
on which my opinion was founded, but my statement evidently modi- 
fied their complaints. In the subsequent discussions Col. Hayne 
made no further attempt to sustain the ninety-third section nor did 
Judge Berrien make material reference to it otherwise than to repel 
as unfounded the charge he attributed to me of a want of proper 
respect on his part for state rights. 

Although the Judge and myself were afterwards members of Gen. 
Jackson's Cabinet and our personal relations were always respect- 
ful they were never confidential nor particularly cordial. From my 
first acquaintance with him I felt that the cultivation and mainten- 
ance of such an intercourse with him would be impracticable, a 
sentiment which surprised me because it was inconsistent with the 
general current of my disposition and indeed then for the first time 
entertained. I refer to the fact only on account of its singularity 
and not in a spirit of complaint, as the fault, if any existed, may as 
likely have been with myself as with him. 

Col. Hayne I always regarded as a fair and generous hearted man. 
His course towards me on the question of my nomination as Minister 
to England, unjust as it was, did not change this opinion. I found 
no difficulty in attributing it to other influences than the unbiased 
dictates of his own heart. He was an improving man and if his 
life had been spared would doubtless have risen to still higher dis- 
tinction, at least in his own state. He possessed a tolerably good 
opinion of his own capacity, but whatever may have been the degree 
of this estimate of himself it was not sufficient to blind his eyes to 
what was passing about him. The Senate was at that time com- 
posed of much older men that at present, who were at least not 
less able. One consequence of their long experience in public life 
was that they spoke less for effect and sometimes discussed questions 
of considerable importance with seeming carelessness and compara- 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN VAN BUEEK. 217 

tive feebleness. Newly appointed Senators often spent portions of 
the session previous to the 4th of March on which they were entitled 
to take their seats at Washington and much of the time in the Senate 
Chamber preparatory to becoming actors themselves, and I seldom 
failed to discover in the faces of the younger men of this class a 
disappointment in the character and proceedings of the body to 
which they had been chosen ; a feeling which frequently inspired them 
with a degree of confidence and self-sufficiency on their first appear- 
ance which the 'Senate always understood and seldom omitted to 
correct in a way alike efficacious and decorous. Col. Hayne was a 
marked subject of this feeling as he was also of the appliances de- 
signed to remove it. He entered at once into the debates and without 
the slightest embarrassment spoke fluently, intelligibly, sometimes 
forcibly but often without the slightest effect. Whilst he was him- 
self treated with proper respect, motions, arguments and opinions 
which he deemed very conclusive, were sometimes disposed of in a 
summary and unceremonious way not [at] all consistent with the 
weight to ° which he deemed them entitled. In short, altho' no one 
appeared to be specially disposed to thwart him there was an in- 
visible but continual filling of his pockets with lead by which his 
career was seriously obstructed. His disappointment was always 
seen in his expressive countenance and once to my knowledge spoken 
out No one informed him of the cause, but he did not fail to dis- 
cover it himself, or to take promptly the steps to remedy the evil. 
From originating propositions himself he became obviously desirous 
to follow the lead of others — instead of the usual confident * and em- 
cathedra way of advancing his opinions they were now expressed 
with diffidence in moderate terms with well conceived expressions of 
deference to those of the elder and more experienced members of 
the Senate. The change was observed and appreciated. He had not 
only thereafter no more reason than any other member of the Senate 
to complain of its want of consideration for what he said or did, 
but he contracted a habit of acting and speaking in the body which 
was of great value to him there and would have been equally useful 
to him in any after stage of public life. 

The revulsion in trade and business of every description in 1837 
produced a clamor for a revival of the Bankrupt system from large 
portions of the people who had ruined themselves by their own 
improvidence. Among the many questions put to me by my op- 
ponents in the canvass of 1840 — numerous enough to fill a volume— 
and answered notwithstanding the silence in which by their advice 
their own candidate was shrouded, there were several calling for 
my opinion upon that subject. I took in my replies the same 

• MS. II, p. 120. 



218 AMERICAN HISTORICAL, ASSOCIATION. 

ground that I occupied on the occasion of which I have been speak- 
ing and in so doing was not unaware of the costly sacrifice I made 
of votes which I would otherwise have received. 

The subject of the Judicial system of the United States and its 
improvement was also elaborately discussed at this session. The 
increase of the number of states and the inability of the Judges 
to do equal justice to all made some alteration in the existing or- 
ganization of the courts a matter of. high necessity. Several plans 
were considered one of which I will notice here because I think 
it involves a principle of great importance and because after re- 
peated ineffectual efforts for its establishment it seems yet to have 
supporters in and out of Congress and will in all probability be 
again proposed. This arrangement separates the Justices of the 
Supreme Court from the performance of circuit duties and de- 
volves them upon circuit Judges, to be appointed for that purpose, 
or upon the district Judges. 

Although the attempt to require by law that the Judges of the 
Supreme Court in the event of the establishment of such a system, 
should reside at the seat of Government has not to my knowledge 
been actually made yet its propriety has been sustained in Con- 
gressional discussions and it is moreover generally conceded that 
that consequence would naturally follow without lqgal require- 
ment. The struggle for the accomplishment of this object, seldom 
avowed but always meant, may be traced through our legislative 
history for more than half a century. The Act of 1789, first or- 
ganizing the Judicial system of the United States, authorized the 
Judges to make temporary allotments of the Circuits among them- 
selves, but made no provision in respect to their places of residence. 
So the law remained until the celebrated Act of 1801, passed at 
the close of the administration of the elder Adams, which provided 
for an entire reorganization of the system. It converted the Su- 
preme Court into a Court of Appeals, relieved its Judges from 
Circuit duties and directed the appointment of nineteen Circuit 
Judges for their performance. 

The appointment of so large a number of officers for life by an 
administration from which the People had already withdrawn their 
confidence, and the extension of the Judiciary so far beyond the 
wants of the public service, aided by the extraordinary excitement 
of the period, drew down upon that Act and its authors the greatest 
public odium. The incoming administration of Mr. Jefferson pro- 
cured the repeal of the law, the abolition of the offices of the new 
Judges, and the substantial reestablishment of the old system. The 
talents of the federal party then most conspicuous, were employed 
in brilliant but vain efforts to resist these measures. Their enactment 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN VAN BUREN. 219 

was denounced as a violation of the Constitution and was held up to 
the People, in the forum and in the press, as the first fruits of vic- 
torious jacobinism. But these exertions were unavailing. The sys- 
tem then in substance restored has ever once prevailed and still 
exists because it is the best of which the subject is susceptible. 

But one material alteration of the former system was made, and 
that was upon the point to which I have referred. 

Mr. Jefferson and his associates in the Government saw, as they 
believed, in the bold measure of their retiring opponents the extent 
to which the latter counted upon the Judicial power as a political 
engine, and they saw in the Judiciary the only portion of our politi- 
cal system that was virtually irresponsible to the People. They 
knew that the possessors of such a power must in the sequel by the 
workings of the human heart and the irresistible law of human na- 
ture be hostile to the principles upon which the Government should 
be conducted and by which its Republican spirit could be alone up- 
held. Although the law they were about to repeal did not require 
the Judges to reside at the seat of Government, they could not doubt 
that such would be the effect and was probably the design of its pro- 
visions, of which they foresaw the evil political consequences, and 
they applied the only remedy within their reach in providing by law 
that the Judges should reside within their respective circuits. The 
only exception of this rule was in relation to the state of Virginia. 
That state had two judges on the Bench, Chief Justice Marshall and 
Justice Washington. In deference to the Father of his Country the 
case of Judge Washington was excepted from the otherwise general 
provision, and he was not withdrawn from Mount Vernon. Seven 
years afterwards when the appointment of an additional Judge 
became necessary for Ohio the dame provision was adopted and has 
been preserved in every subsequent law by which the system had been 
extended to meet the growing exigencies of the service. 

But it has not been preserved without a struggle. On the occa- 
sion of the proposed appointment of three new Judges, during the 
administration of the younger Adams, the adoption of a clause com- 
pelling them to reside in their respective circuits was one of two 
questions upon which the Houses of Congress differed and through- 
their non-concurrence in which the Bill was lost. The proposition 
of the House of Representatives was reported and sustained by Mr. 
Webster, and that of the Senate by myself. Portions of my obser- 
vations at the time upon the subject will be found in .* 

It will be perceived by the remarks here referred to that I have 
subsequently changed my opinion in regard to the proper tenure of 

1 Van Bursa's entire speech, which was deUvered Apr. 7, 1826, Is In Gales and Beaton's 
Register of Debates, toI. 2, pt 1, 410-428. 



220 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

Judicial officers. Some of the reasons for this change are elsewhere 
stated. It was founded on observation and reflection and without 
prejudice. The tide of public opinion on the subjects of the juris- 
diction of the Federal courts and the term for which their Judges 
should hold their offices ° has had its ebbs and floods, and it is my 
firm belief that the time is not far distant when these questions will 
be more seriously agitated. 

The future fortunes of Mr. Clay became dependent in a very great 
degree upon the success of Mr. Adams. This consideration added to 
his views of the public interest, enlisted all his faculties in the 
struggle. The contest between Mr. Adams and Gen. Jackson, who 
was with great unanimity selected as the republican candidate, was 
an arduous one, but was not, after the lapse of a year, considered of 
doubtful result on our side. The common rally of the old Repub- 
licans in favor of the General caused many Federalists, who had 
supported him in the last trial, to leave him now, and with the 
exception of a few prominent men in different states the masses of 
that party went cordially for Mr. Adams. But a zealous union be- 
tween that portion of the republican party who, adhering to its 
usages, had shown themselves willing to sacrifice personal prefer- 
ences to its harmony, the numerous supporters of Gen. Jackson in 
the preceding election who constituted the majority in several of 
the states, and the friends of Mr. Calhoun, who controlled South 
Carolina and were formidable in many other states, encouraged by 
the tried popularity of their candidate, and strengthened by the mis- 
management of the administration was too powerful to be resisted, 
and Jackson and Calhoun were elected to the offices of President 
and Vice President by large majorities. 

The same fall my friends called on me to stand as their candi- 
date for Governor of New York with a degree of unanimity and 
earnestness that did not admit of a refusal, and I was elected by 
a plurality of more than 80,000 over my quondam friend Smith 
Thompson, who was run for the office without resigning his seat on 
the bench of the Supreme Court The anti-ma9onic excitement, 
which is too well understood to require explanation, made its first 
political demonstration at this election. The criminal transactions 1 
which produced it were perpetrated in the midst of a district of 
country in the Western part of the state which since the War of 
1812 had been strongly on the republican side in party politics, 
and owing to this circumstance and to the fact that dislike of 
secret societies had always formed a more marked feature of our 
creed, the sincere converts to the new party were principally drawn 
from our ranks. The votes given for Mr. Southwick, the anti- 

.^ i^ an- aBBMa— a^ a»as— aM^ ««^ H^ ■— ^— — ^— •— » 

• M8. II, pi 125. 

1 The abduction and probable murder of William Morgan in the faU of 1826. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN VAN BUKEN. 221 

masonic candidate for Governor, exceeding in number the majority 
by which I was elected over Judge Thompson, were almost exclu- 
sively given in this region and at least two-thirds of them taken 
from our side. 

I entered upon the duties of the office of Governor early in 
January, and sent a Message to the Legislature which convened 
at the same time. I received soon after a letter from John Ran- 
dolph communicating his own and Nathaniel Macon's congratula- 
tions upon the character of that paper. Few men were better in- 
structed in the principles of the republican party than Mr. Ran- 
dolph and there was not one on whose good opinion I placed a 
higher value than on that of the venerable Macon. 

I held the office of Governor only 1 days and during that 

short period succeeded in obtaining the action of the Legislature on 
three subjects in which I felt great interest. These consisted of 
adequate measures, first, to protect the public and more particularly 
the laboring classes, who were most concerned in a sound currency 
because they were the most dependent upon it and the least able to 
detect what was otherwise, from losses through bank failure; second, 
to prevent as far as possible the use of money at the elections, and 
third to abolish a particular monopoly 8 and thereby to relieve a 
valuable portion of the business of the community from unneces- 
sary and therefore injurious interference on the part of Government. 

Of my consistent opposition to the multiplication of banks and 
my readiness to suppress and punish the frauds they have com- 
mitted on the public I have before spoken. I think in these respects 
the record will not produce the evidence of any man having gone 
beyond me, be the merit great or small. Thoroughly satisfied of the 
hopelessness of the task of putting a stop to the improper increase 
of banks I turned my attention to the consideration of the most 
effective measures to protect the most helpless against losses by their 
failures. Joshua Forman, of Onondaga county, a plain but prac- 
tical and far-seeing man, apprised of my general views in the mat- 
ter, submitted for my consideration a plan for the accomplishment 
of my object of which I thought favorably and which contained in 
a rough state many of the features of the Safety Fund System which 
was finally adopted.* I opened communications with those whom I 
regarded as the most competent and trustworthy bankers of New 
York and Albany and submitted to them the project of Mr. For. 
man with my own views of the subject, and after full discussion we 

i From Jan. 1, 1829, to Mar. 12, 48 days. 

• The bank monopoly, created by the practice of the State accepting a money bonna 
for a bank charter. 

• Fonnan'a letter dated Jan. 24, 1829, ia in the Van Buren Papers, 



222 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

settled upon the plan ultimately submitted to and adopted by the 
Legislature. Having an abiding faith in the wisdom and efficacy 
of the system, if honestly administered, I have requested my friend, 
Major Flagg, 1 who as Comptroller of the State had much to do 
with its administration, and in whose statements all who knew him 
will confide, to give me a brief statement of its workings through- 
out. His reply will be found 

The law which I assisted in framing to restrain the use of money 
in elections is still, I believe, on the statute books, and no one can 
doubt its sufficiency if the provisions were fairly executed. I exerted 
myself to the uttermost before I left Albany and afterwards from 
Washington, by letters to induce my political friends to take a strong 
stand in its support at the first election after its passage urging 
upon them considerations founded on the unprincipled character 
of the practices it was intended to suppress, the special obligation 
upon them to abstain from and resist such practices as claiming a 
purer political faith than their opponents and finally the inferior 
motive of expediency. I assured them that experience had satis- 
factorily established the fact that as to the two great parties which 
divided the country the spontaneous feelings of a large majority 
of the People were on our side ; that whenever we were defeated the 
result could generally be traced to specific and extraneous causes; 
that with this truth before our eyes nothing could be more unwise 
in us than to tolerate practices which exerted an influence upon the 
elections in utter disregard of the conduct or principles of the re- 
spective parties or of the unbiased inclinations of the People; that 
in the use of money the struggle was altogether unequal — the banks, 
incorporated companies of all descriptions and the monied interest 
being generally against them and able to raise more dollars than they 
could cents and that whilst they paid out their driblets their adver- 
saries, emboldened by their participation, would carry all before 
them by the lavish expenditure of thousands. 

I urged them in view of these and other similar considerations 
to forbear the use of money themselves, to appoint at their town 
meetings a committee whose duty it should be to attend the polls 
and to institute prosecution in every case where they had reason 
to believe that the law had been violated. But my efforts were un- 
availing. Not a single committee was appointed or any efforts to 
my knowledge made to carry the law into effect. It has stood ° 
as a dead letter on the statute book ever since. Excuses were given 
by some of my friends that its provisions were too stringent and 
that they could .not carry an election without violating some of 

1 Asarlah Catting: Flagg. His statement Is missing from the Van Buren Papers. 
° MS. II, p. 180. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN VAN BUREN. 223 

# 

them. Partisans have since waded through seas of corruption in 
the profligate use of money in elections — neither side has been 
free of offense although nine tenths of the effects produced have 
without doubt enured to the benefit of our opponents. 

I have ever advocated the abolition of patronage that was not 
acquired for the despatch of public business and limiting the in- 
terference of the Government in the business concerns of the People 
to cases of actual necessity, and [have been] an enemy to monopoly 
in any form. Our state being eminently commercial a large and very 
valuable portion of its trade was carried on through the medium of 
sales by auction. The exclusive right of making such sales had, from 
the commencement of the Government, been conferred on officers 
called auctioneers, appointed and commissioned like the other officers 
of the Government. Appointments of this nature were like others 
usually given by both parties to their political supporters, but as 
meritorious politicians are neither necessarily or even usually good 
men of business or possessed of the means required to carry on 
business to advantage, they fell into the habit of transferring their 
official rights to those* who were more fortunate in those respects 
for a share of the profits. A species of official brokerage was thus 
kept on foot and sanctioned from the necessity of the case discredit- 
able to the administration of public affairs. 

Looking upon the creation of these offices as an extension of pat- 
ronage by Government to be a case where it was neither necessary 
nor advantageous, and upon the exclusive privileges attached to 
them as an injurious monopoly, and satisfied that the business would 
be better attended to when left to those who had no other claims 
to be employed than those which arose from established character 
and proved capacity I recommended to the Legislature to abolish 
the offices and to throw the business open to public competition. 
This was promptly done, and the results have satisfactorily vindi- 
cated the wisdom of the policy. 



CHAPTER XX. 

°I received a letter from Gen. Jackson, soon after his arrival 
at Washington, offering me the place of Secretary of State of the 
United States *— a wholly unsolicited $ep. I had expressed no desire 
to receive that or any other appointment at his hands, either to 
him or to any other person and I have every reason to believe that 
no advances to that end were ever made on the part of my personal 
friends. He said in a published letter : " I called him [Mr. V. B.] to 
the Department of State influenced by the general wish and expecta- 
tion of the republican party throughout the Union." This position, 
like every other office or nomination save one, bestowed upon me 
in the course of my long public life, came to me without interference 
on my part, direct or indirect, and in the execution of the well under- 
stood wish of the great majority of the political party of which I 

Jwas a member. My election to the New York State Senate, the first 
elective office I ever held, was the exception referred to. The cir- 
cumstances under which I then felt myself constrained to interfere 
personally in support of a nomination, which I not only did not 
wish but stood ready to decline, have been unreservedly stated in ah 

# earlier part of this work. With that single exception my observance 
of that abstinence from personal efforts to acquire political advance- 
ment, which was once inexorably demanded by the habits and feel- 
ings of Northern people, has been uniform. On the most interesting 
occasion of all — when my acts and motives were most unsparingly 
assailed — that of my acceptance of the Presidential nomination, I 
flung before my opponents, including a large number whom I had 
been constrained, by views of public duty, to make such, altho' pre- 
viously close and confidential friends, a challenge upon this theme, 
to which it will be admitted no one would have ventured to resort, 
at such a time, who was not well assured of his invulnerable position. 
My second nomination for the State Senate was made with per- 
fect unanimity. The opposition made to my appointment as Attor- 
ney General, under the State Government, in 1815, was an indi- 
vidual effort by Judge Spencer, whose influence in such matters 
had before been irresistible, to punish me for refusing to sustain 
his views in relation to the choice of U. S. Senator, by defeating 
an appointment against which there was not, until that attempt, 
a known dissentient in the party to which we both belonged; an 
appointment by the way, of which he was, at an earlier period, 

• MS. Ill, p. 1. 

1 This letter, Feb. 15, 1829, is in the Van Boxen Papers. 
224 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN VAN BUREN. 225 

the first to suggest the fitness and of which he was an advocate until 
his favor was changed into hostility in the way I have stated. The 
principal features of that affair have been described already and 
I will only add here the Gov. Tompkins delayed his casting vote, 
at the Council, between Judge Wbodworth and myself — giving to 
it a quasi-public character by announcing it at the Capitol — and 
declared in giving it that he decided the question in my favor be- 
cause he believed me to be competent to discharge the duties of the 
office and because he knew that my appointment was confidently 
expected by the party by which he had himself been elected. To 
this it may with truth be added that there was at the moment some 
coolness between the Governor and myself growing out of his ap- 
pointments in my county, and that altho 9 the question upon the tie 
vote of the Council was pending before him some days, he was not 
approached upon the subject either by myself or by any of my 
f riencls, to my knowledge or belief. Having been removed from 
the office of Attorney General under circumstances already noticed 
1 was, upon the return of my political friends to power, appointed 
XL S. Senator, without disagreement among them. After the ex- 
piration of six years, my re-nomination in caucas was made with 
great unanimity and received no opposition in the Legislature save 
from my political opponents. My nomination for the office of 
Governor was also made without opposition, and against my wishes, 
by a State Convention. Of my appointment as Secretary of State 
I have just spoken, and to that of Minister to England there was no 
dissent, save by the antagonists of my party. I was made a candi- 
date for the office of Vice-President of the United States in pursu- 
ance of the spontaneous and united demand of the democracy of the 
Nation ; a complimentary vote was given in Convention to two other 
gentlemen by the delegates of their respective States, who were, in 
point of fact, as friendly to my selection as were those who advocated 
it from the first, but the nomination was forthwith made unanimous 
in form as it was in the wishes of the mass of the democratic party. 

I received my nomination as the democratic candidate for the 
office of President of the United States from the National Demo- 
cratic Convention of 1835* and again, after a four years incumbency, 

♦ At the election, following this nomination, I was deprived of the votes of the States 
of Tennessee, Georgia and even of that of the thoroghly democratic State of Alabama, 
by a combination between the friends of Jndge White, of Tennessee, and of Mr. Calhoan 
with the undivided opposition to President Jackson's administration In those States. 
The Judge had not been a candidate before the convention. He was naturally honest, 
aJhto' open to prejudices, and more self-willed by far than General Jackson himself. 
When Major Baton quitted the War Department I advised the President to offer the 
place to Judge White, and, as his own family had left him, in consequence of the Baton 
imbroglio, I was particularly desirous that he should invite the Judge also, who was 
then a widower, to reside with him, with which he complied. Knowing the Judge only 
as the active and open friend of Gen. Jackson, I was not a little struck by the care and 

127488°— vol 2—20 15 



226 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

from a similar convention in 1840, by the votes of every member of 
those bodies. Defeated in 1840, thro' well understood causes, the 
great majority of the democratic masses rallied for the restoration 

■ ■ ■ — ^^^— — ^»- ■ M ^^^— ^^^^— ■ ■ «i ■ m ^— — ■ ■ ■ — *—<— — <^— ^— ■■■■■ ■■■■■ — ^ ^ i^^^— ^^^^^ 

circumspection which the latter evinced in every step he took in the matter, but when 
Judge White declined and I became better acquainted with the personal feeling of both 
parties, I had no difficulty In understanding what before appeared inexplicable. I had 
no special claims upon the Judge, but It cost him a .great effort to separate from the 
General, who admonished him, as well as his wife (after his second marriage). In his 
usual unreserved and emphatic way, of the consequences of the step he was about 
to take. But Mr. Bell, of Tennessee, chosen Speaker of the House over Mr. Polk, by 
the votes of the opposition and of democratic members disaffected towards the Jackson 
administration, and Mr. Webster, by his attentions particularly to a member of the 
Judge's family as well as to him, overcame his scruples. 

I have always believed that if I had possessed a tithe of the skill in subtle manage- 
ment and of the spirit of intrigue, so liberally charged upon me by my opponents, and 
upon the strength of which they gave me the title of " magician," I could have turned 
aside the opposition which sprang from that source without much difficulty. Mr. 
Speaker Bell, ttao' not one of Judge White's closest friends, doubtless controlled his 
action in the matter by force of superior capacity and knowledge. He had a^ passion 
for political intrigue and occupied at the moment a position of difficulty and hazard 
from the circumstances attending his elevation to the chair. I received frequent hints 
of a desire on his part to hold a confidential conversation with me and was one day 
Invited to dine with a mutual friend well disposed to his advancement; informed (be- 
fore hand) that the Speaker would be the only other gentleman Invited, I expected that 
the subject of the Presidential election would be introduced and could easily imagine 
the shape of the suggestions that would be made. Bell and Polk were at the head of 
rival interests in Tennessee, and the treatment they might respectively expect to receive 
from the new administration, if I should be elected, was a matter of Interest to both. 
After the ladies retired, the subject was, as I had foreseen, introduced, but a severe tooth- 
ache compelled me to decline the conversation and to retire almost Immediately. We 
separated with the significant expression, by the Speaker, of a hope that I might not 
have a tooth-ache when we should meet again. This occurred shortly after the com- 
mencement of the session of Congress of 1834-5. Some days thereafter, and on the 
last day of December, when Mr. Adams delivered before Congress, his address on the 
Life and Character of Lafayette, another attempt to converse upon the matter was 
made. The Senate repairing to the Representative Chamber, I, as the presiding officer 
of that body, was of course placed by the side of the Speaker. He Introduced the sub- 
ject by an expression of his regret that the republican party was to be divided by the 
nomination of Judge White and the satisfaction he would derive from an amicamW 
adjustment of the matter, and proceeded to say that such progress had been mader 
and such a point reached as made it Indispensable that whatever was to be done to 
arrest it should be done immediately. Determined from the beginning to make no ex- 
planations as to the course I would pursue If elected, In regard to personal interests. 
I put a civil end to the conversation by a few general remarks in regard to the duty 
that the friends of Judge White owed to the republican cause and my convictions that 
they could not so far forget it, as well as their interest, as to disregard both by the. 
course indicated, and closed with an observation on the speech which was being delivered 
in front of us. 

Struck by the peculiarity of the time and occasion selected by the Speaker for this 
communication I turned with greater interest to the correspondence between Judge 
White and the Tennessee delegation (Mr. Bell being one of them), soon after published, 
and found that It was only on the previous evening that the delegation had obtained his 
consent to the use of his name and that there was therefore great reason for the urgency 
manifested, arising from the necessity for speedy action. 

It was Immediately afterwards announced in the Tennessee newspaper, which was 
regarded as the Judge's organ, that his name would not be withdrawn, and the sequel 
is known. His resignation as Senator and final retirement from public life, conscious 
of the extent to which he had been deceived and used, and sick of politics, followed 
immediately upon the result of the election. 

When his old colleague, Mr. Grundy, reached Washington, I inquired after the Judge 
and was answered by that facetious and worthy man as follows: "You ask me how he 
spends his time ! I will tell you : — he sits all the day long in the chimney corner, spit- 
ting tobacco juice by the gallon, cursing everything and everybody, except his Creator,— 
but thinking devilish hard of Him ! " Note by Van Buren. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MAKTTK YAK BTJBEK. 227 

of their overthrown principles, by the instrumentality of my re- 
elevation to ° the Presidency. More than three fourths of the States 
instructed their delegates either in express terms, or thro 9 unmis- 
takable avowals of their preferences, to vote for my nomination. 
Their wishes were, however, defeated at the Baltimore Convention 
by the intrigues of politicians of which a brief notice will be taken 
at the proper place. 

The unqualified resolutions of respect and confidence adopted with 
entire unanimity, by both branches of the Legislature of New York, 
on my resignation of the office of Governor, with the feelings of 
personal regard manifested by the citizens of Albany, without dis- 
tinction of parties, was the first let up in party violence that I had 
ever experienced. These exhibitions of friendly and liberal senti- 
ments, coming, to a considerable extent from men between whom 
and myself there had been, for about a quarter of a century, a cease- 
less partisan contest, always more or less acrimonious, affected me 
deeply — I need not say, most agreeably ; not solely on my individual 
account but on account also of the evidence they presented that 
there lies at the bottom of our party divisions a mass of kind and 
generous feelings, on all sides, waiting only fit occasions for their 
display. 

On my way out of the city I paid my last visit to the venerable 
John Taylor, then supposed to be on his death-bed ; a sad anticipa- 
tion which was soon realized. Gov. Taylor was no ordinary man. 
From a comparatively obscure condition in life he had by his own 
unaided efforts raised himself to a position of much influence in 
the Government, and to the first rank in society. From the begin- 
ning a devoted personal and political friend of George Clinton he 
nevertheless cultivated friendly and social relations with General 
Schuyler, General Hamilton and many other distinguished federal- 
ists, and there were, for many years, few private tables at which 
leading and eminent men of opposing politics were more frequently 
assembled than at his — none certainly at which a generous and 
elegant hospitality was more liberally dispensed, a gratification in 
which an ample estate, acquired by his own industry and without 
reproach, enabled him freely to indulge himself. 

On my first entrance upon public life he heard me with great 
kindness, and altho' we had been occasionally at issue in the State 
legislature and sometimes quite warmly, I never had reason to 
apprehend thftt those collisions had produced any change in his 
personal feelings towards me. The most important as well as the 
most exciting occasion on which we came in conflict related to the 
course we respectively pursued in regard to Gov. De Witt Clinton. 

* M&. Ill, ik 5. 



228 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

He opposed, as has been related, the election of that gentleman 
for the Presidency in 1812. In doing so it must now be admitted 
that he acted a wiser part than I did, and I have before referred 
to the apparent asperity with which, on that occasion, he resented 
my course in the State Caucus. But, as I have also mentioned, 
his disposition towards Governor Clinton was subsequently entirely 
changed, and when the latter became finally separated from the 
republican party, Gov. Taylor's long indulged partiality for the 
Clintons proved too strong to prevent him from adopting the same 
course. From that period to the day of his death we were opposed 
to each other in politics, but there never was a time when my feel- 
ings towards him were not of the kindest character and if I could 
ever have doubted his cordial reciprocation of them such doubts 
would have been effectually removed by our last interview. 

Apprised of my intention to call on him he had caused himself 
to be supported in a sitting position and was attended only by his 
adopted daughter, Mrs. Cooper, one of the very best of women. 9 
Taking my hand, at first, in both of his own and retaining his hold 
by one until I left, with every sign of regard, he referred briefly 
and impressively to his own hopeless condition and to the extreme 
improbability of our ever meeting again in life, and then spoke, 
earnestly and feelingly, of our past relations, of the length of time 
during which we had acted together in the service of the State, 
of the occasions on which we had taken different views of the public 
interest and of the momentary excitements they had produced, 
dwelt upon the respect and kindness I had extended to him at all 
times, and assured me in very gratifying words of the favorable 
opinions he had formed of my character. He then adverted to 
the subject of the journey upon which I had started, the new duties 
upon which I was about to enter, and in flattering terms, to results 
which might be anticipated from them if my future course was as 
discreet as the past had appeared to him to have been, and, with 
the expression of a sincere wish that my future life might be a 
happy one and that my political career might be crowned with com- 
plete success, he bade me a final and affectionate farewell. 

I need not say how cordially I reciprocated the assurances of 
respect and regard with which the dying patriot honored me, nor 
will I attempt to describe the satisfaction I derived from the circum- 
stance that my residence at Albany, theretofore so stormy and harass- 
ing, had been closed by an interview which, in every respect save that 
it was destined to be the last, was so truly gratifying. 

My health had been reduced by the pressure of business to a state 
which rendered travelling painful, and the irksomeness of my jour- 

» MS. Ill, p. 10. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN VAN BURKN. 229 

ney was not a little aggravated by the accounts which I received 
from friends whom I met on my way of the condition of things at 
Washington. Mr, Woodbury arrived at New York after I had 
retired for the night, and knowing that I was to leave early in the 
morning, he obtained permission to see me in my bed-chamber. His 
enumeration of the friends who were dissatisfied with the forma- 
tion of the Cabinet, and the dispositions they had indicated, was 
rendered more imposing by my knowledge of his usual discretion in 
speaking of such things. Yet whilst I placed much confidence in 
his good sense and regard to truth, I was well apprised of the extent 
of his disappointment in not having been himself selected for the 
Cabinet, as he, perhaps, ought to have been, and was therefore in- 
clined to make liberal deductions from his description on account of 
the natural effects of such a condition of mind upon the views of 
most menu At Philadelphia I had a long and gloomy interview 
with Mr. and Mrs. Livingston also just from Washington, Mr. Liv- 
ingston's situation was, in one respect, the reverse of Woodbury's, as 
he held in his pocket President Jackson's unconditional offer of the 
mission to France — the only place he desired to occupy. Yet their 
description of the unpromising state of things at the White House 
was notwithstanding still more emphasized than the first, especially 
in regard to matters which were peculiarly within the range of 
female cognisance and which, tho' not of the highest, are still of 
considerable importance. On probing the sources of their somewhat 
dismal forebodings to the bottom, I was gratified to discover that. 
Mr. Livingston's confidence in the strong sense, perfect purity and 
unconquerable firmness of the President, which I had all along re- 
garded as the promising features of his character with reference to 
his new position, had not suffered any abatement. He was as well 
satisfied as he ever had been that no man or set of men could ever 
lead the General to do an unworthy action, and that his willing- 
ness to hear and respect counsel from those who might be better 
instructed than himself, in respect to particular points, might under 
all circumstances be relied on. An apprehension, founded on the 
assumption that an influence was exerted over the President which 
would, in the natural course of things, in respect to the social phases 
of the Presidential Mansion, lead to degradation and contempt in 
the eyes of foreigners and of good society in general, was found to 
be the principal source of their fears. They informed me at the 
same time of the offer of the Mission to France and of their confident 
expectation that Mr. Livingston would be able to accept it. It was 
therefore only necessary to refer to the probability that they would 
be the persons most exposed to annoyances at a foreign court, from 
any scandal that might obtain circulation upon that point, to lead 
me to the inference that their description was an exaggerated one, 



230 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

made such to induce me to take early and effective steps to prevent 
or to remedy the evils they apprehended. 

Thus far were those intelligent and estimable people from fore- 
seeing what soon became obvious to qualified observers, that Presi- 
dent Jackson's receptions at the Presidential Mansion would cer- 
tainly not be considered inferior, either in the cost or brilliancy of 
his entertainments or in the grace and dignity with which his guests 
were received, as well by himself as by the female members of his 
family, or in the genuine hospitality which they dispensed, to those 
of any of his most distinguished predecessors. 

But my strongest "pose" was reserved for my arrival at New 
Castle. As our boat approached the wharf at that place I recog- 
nized among the crowd, as I expected to do, my particular friend 
Mr. McLane, with disappointment and deep mortification stamped 
upon every line of his intelligent countenance. His personal antici- 
pations in regard to the composition of the Cabinet had been higher 
and, as he and his friends supposed, better founded than those of Mr. 
Woodbury. He took my arm as I stepped on shore and proposed 
that we should walk on in advance of the stagecoach, which was 
sufficiently delayed to give us a tramp, not a little fatiguing to me 
in my state of health, but which gave him a fair opportunity to 
relieve his mind, so far as that could be done by " unpacking his 
heart with words." He took the parole at once and kept it until 
the coach overtook us. In the course of his. excited harangue, for 
such it literally was, he described, in the earnest and energetic man- 
ner usual with him when deeply moved, the degraded condition to 
which he thought the administration already reduced thro' the ad- 
vice of the evil counsellors by whofa General Jackson was sur- 
rounded, and in conclusion referred to a letter that he had written 
to me at Albany immediately after the selection of the Cabinet. 
In that letter, after saying that such a Cabinet required no comment 
and that he could not see how it could command public confidence, 
and raising a series of objections to the official arrangement, he sub- 
mitted to my reflections whether the interests of my friends and of 
the Country required of me the sacrifice of assisting in an attempt to 
repair its defects and to give strength to the administration, or 
whether I should not rather remain in my elevated position in the 
State of New York and leave these strange occurrences to run their 
course. As I had already resigned the office of Governor, to which 
he referred in his letter, he now spoke, with obvious hesitation, in 
respect to my throwing up that of Secretary of State, not recom- 
mending such a course specifically but giving most emphatic assur- 
ances of the indispensable necessity of great changes in the existing 
organization of the Government as the only way by which that 
step could be avoided without subjecting myself to great discredit 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN VAN BUREN. 281 

There were unfortunately many others who had been prominent 
and active in the support of General Jackson's election scarcely less 
dissatisfied with the Cabinet selections. Hie best known and most 
influential politicians of this description in Virginia and in South 
Carolina very generally shared in that feeling; and what made this 
matter more embarrassing to myself was the fact that they consti- 
tuted a class with whom my relations both personal and political 
had been the closest, who passed as my zealous friends and who 
had been from the beginning and to a man, in favor of my being 
placed at the head of the new Cabinet General Hamilton, of South 
Carolina, a very prominent man amongst them, told my friend Cam- 
breleng, as he informed me by letter before I left Albany, that " if 
T went into the Cabinet I would cut my throat." There was prob- 
ably not one of these malcontents more disappointed than myself 
by the composition of the administration. I had been, perhaps, at 
too great a distance to be conveniently consulted on the subject ° by 
the President elect, if he had been that way disposed, but my atten- 
tion had been throughout directed to other quarters. Except Mr. 
Ingham, the new Secretary of the Treasury, I had not heard that 
either of the successful gentlemen had been proposed for the Cabi- 
net before I received the news of their selection. It was besides not 
in my power to regard some of them, though deficient neither in 
character nor in social or general respectability, as well adapted to 
a satisfactory performance off the duties to which they had been 
appointed. Thus situated I could not allow any considerations not 
involving a sacrifice of personal honor to prevent my acceptance of 
the President's invitation, and I continued my progress to the seat 
of Government with the same determination with which I had left 
Albany, that of contributing all in my power to secure the success 
of the administration. ' 

It was after dark when I reached Washington and the coach had 
barely arrived at the hotel before it was surrouned by a crowd of ap- 
plicants for office whose cases had been deferred until the Cabinet 
should be full. They followed me into and filled my room, where, 
from a sofa on which my health compelled me to lie, I informed them 
that it was my intention to pay my respects to the President within 
an hour, until the expiration of which time I would listen patiently 
to any thing they desired to say. They proceeded accordingly to 
communicate their respective wishes, and when it became necessary 
to close the interview I informed them that I would carefully ex- 
amine the papers in such cases as belonged to my department and 
would endeavor to do justice to their applications, but that I was in- 
disposed to see persons who desired appointments seeking them in 

* ms in, p. is. 



232 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

person at the seat of Government and disinclined to report in favor 
of such as did not leave their cases to the justice of the President 
and go home. 

A solitary lamp in the vestibule and a single candle in the Presi- 
dent's office gave no promise of the cordiality with which I was, 
notwithstanding, greeted by General Jackson on my visit to the 
White House. I found no one with him except his intimate friend 
Major Lewis. His health was poor, and his spirits depressed as 
well by his recent bereavement of his wife as by the trials of per- 
sonal and political friendship which he had been obliged to en- 
counter in the organization of his Cabinet. This was our first meet- 
ing as political friends and it was certainly a peculiar feature in that 
interview and no insignificant illustration of his nature that he 
received with most affectionate eagerness, at the very threshold of 
his administration, the individual destined to occupy the first place 
in his confidence, of whose character his only opportunities to learn 
anything by personal observation had been presented during periods 
of active political hostility. 

He soon noticed my exhaustion from sickness and travel and, con- 
siderately postponing all business to an appointed hour of the next 
day, recommended me to my bed. 

From that night to the day of his death the relations, sometimes 
official, always political and personal, were inviolably maintained 
between that noble old man and myself, the cordial and confidential 
character of which can never have been surpassed among public 
men. The history of those associations I propose to relate and to 
accompany it with an unreserved publication of our entire corre- 
spondence. But before entering upon this work it may be useful 
that I should give a succinct account of our personal and political 
intercourse from the commencement of our acquaintance to the time 
of his elevation to the Presidency. 

I was presented to General Jackson for the first time, at Wash- 
ington in the winter of 1815-16, whilst on a visit to that city, to 
which- place he had been called by the exciting contest that grew 
out of his Seminole campaign. Partaking of the extraordinary in- 
terest which he inspired wherever he went I sought an introduc- 
tion to him at the very moment of his departure for Tennessee, and 
did not see him again until I met him, in 1828, on the floor of the 
Senate of the United States, of which body he had become a member. 
Although we agreed better in our fundamental opinions and prin- 
ciples than I. did with many with whom I was acting, it so happened 
that we had taken different sides on occasions of an exciting charac- 
ter. He visited New York at a period when the contest between 
Gov. DeWitt Clinton and a majority of the republican party of that 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN VAN BUKEN. 233 

State stood at fever-heat, and having been invited to a public din- 
ner by the Tammany Society, which constituted one of the leading 
interests in opposition to Mr. Clinton, he gave a toast, when called 
upon, highly complimentary to that gentleman. We were of course 
very much stirred up at being thus snubbed, as we considered it, 
by the gallant General,— more so doubtless than the occasion called 
for. He not only was no politician, but was, at that time, openly 
and zealously advocating the mitigation if not the entire suppres- 
sion of party divisions amongst us. It may be very well doubted 
whether he made himself at all acquainted with the nature or extent 
of the controversy in which he seemed to take a part. We invited 
him as a meritorious Chief who had rendered the Country great serv- 
ice, we could not think him capable of offering an insult to his 
entertainers, we could well afford to allow the right of opinion 
in its fullest latitude, and there was, it must now be confessed, 
enough in the character and public services of Mr. Clinton to jus- 
tify the General's admiration and respect, even admitting the im- 
putation of political infidelity which we preferred against him to 
have been well founded. The General was, moreover, in those days, 
as I have just intimated, an advocate of Mr. Monroe's amalgama- 
tion policy, which we, on the other hand, regarded as the gross 
delusion which it proved to be, — an opinion in which Jackson, be- 
fore the end of his first Presidential term, not only cordially con- 
curred but was inclined at times to carry too far in the opposite 
direction. 

He made his appearance in the Senate in the double character 
of one of the Senators from Tennessee and her candidate for the 
office of President of the United States, and among those who op- 
posed his election to the latter place there was scarcely one more 
actively and zealously employed than myself; an opposition which 
extended alike to 1 Mr. Adams and to himself and which was neither 
relaxed nor intermitted until the final settlement of the question 
by the House of Representatives. But these differences did not 
produce the slightest trace; of ill blood between us. Our personal 
intercourse from the day we met in the Senate to the end of the 
severe Presidential canvass of 1824, was, on the contrary uniformly 
kind and courteous, altho' circumstances occurred which, unex- 
plained, were well calculated to put his self-control at least for the 
moment, to severe tests. 

In November 1816, after Mr. Monroe's elevation to the* Presi- 
dency had become certain, General Jackson wrote a friendly letter 
to him in respect to the' formation of his Cabinet 1 

• 

> See note to jk 108 ante. 



2S4 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

• 

In that letter he said : — " Every thing depends upon the selection 
of your ministry. Now is the time to exterminate that monster 
called party-spirit." Whatever may then have been the real state 
of Mr. Monroe's feelings in respect to the General's advice, he did 
not deem its immediate adoption either safe or prudent. He had 
been elected as the nominee of a party caucus and as the successor 
of two Presidents in whose support a similar agency had been 
employed. To have pursued a course like that" recommended to 
him by General Jackson, under such circumstances, and in the then 
state of public opinion, could not have failed to prove disastrous 
to his administration. He therefore wrote to the General an elab- 
orate answer, complimenting his liberality but pointing out the 
inexpediency of the course he had proposed. In 1821-2, when his 
first term was about to expire and his re-election for the second 
had been carried, with only a single electoral vote against him in 
the whole Country, Mr. Monroe became, as I have elsewhere fully 
described, ready and anxious to carry into effect the policy recom- 
mended to him by the General four years before. The course pur- 
sued by his administration to that end was contrary to the general 
sentiment of the republicans and was met with particular and very 
marked hostility at two points, as we have seen, to wit: in New 
York and Pennsylvania; the demonstrations against the Presi- 
dent's policy in the former state growing out of the appointment 
of a postmaster at Albany and of the nomination of Irish, 1 ' an out 
and out federalist, for the office of Marshal of the Western District 
of Pennsylvania, in the latter. 

Both of the Pennsylvania Senators remonstrated earnestly with 
Mr. Monroe against this nomination on the express ground that 
it was made in the execution of that amalgamation policy to 
which they and their State were opposed. It was notwithstanding 
made and they carried the question to the Senate, where it was 
thoroughly canvassed, and by which body * the nomination was 
rejected by a vote of 26 to 14 ; the dissentients being, of course, and 
to a man, republicans. To silence the opposition of Pennsylvania, 
the President, in the course of his discussions with the Senators from 
that State, read to them the letter received in 1816 from General 
Jackson who was already looked upon as a probable candidate for 
the Presidency and understood to be the favorite of Pennsylvania. 
Mr. Monroe also, as it subsequently appeared, read the letter to 
several other members of Congress to remove their Objections to 
the policy he was pursuing. As the letter was shewn to the Pennsyl- 
vania Senators, in connection with the performance of their public 
duties, and in no sense confidentially, they both spoke of the sub- 

* MS. Ill, p. 20. « William B. IrlBh. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIK VAN BUREN. 235 

ject without reserve. The interest of the public in the matter of 
coarse increased with the improvement of the General's prospects 
of success and the affair soon got into the newspapers and caused 
a great sensation, particularly in the Western District of Pennsyl- 
vania, which was the stronghold and headquarters of the demo- 
cratic party of that State and already much excited by it. The 
Crawford newspapers circulated far and near the charge that Jack- 
son had written such a letter. The papers which supported Jackson, 
well aware that, if written, it could not be successfully defended in 
that State, denied that the General had written or that Mr. Monroe 
had received any letter of the kind. 

Messrs. Lowrie and Findley, 1 the Senators, were called out from 
all parts of the State. Findlay, who was in favor of Jackson, re- 
fused to say what he knew whilst Lowrie, who was a Crawford 
man, although he had taken no steps towards a publication of the 
facts, stated them publicly and truly. George Krehmer, the ever 
active friend of Gen. Jackson, applied to Mr. Monroe for infor- 
mation and he authorized him to say that it was false that the Gen- 
eral had ever written to him such a letter as Krehmer described. 
Gen. Jackson substantially authorized Krehmer to say the same 
thing, declaring at the same time that he had reserved no copy 
of the letter and spoke only from memory. These denials were 
literally well founded because Krehmer's description of the letter 
was materially variant from the letter itself. 

A protracted correspondence ensued, the parties to which were 
the President, his son-in-law, Mr. Hay, Gen. Jackson and Mr. 
Lowrie. The latter removed the technical grounds upon which 
these denials were founded by setting forth the contents of the 
letter according to his recollection of them and as he had declared 
them to be and called, in respectful terms, upon Mr. Monroe to 
publish Gen. Jackson's letter, a demand which he thought him- 
self entitled to make as it had been shewn to him to influence his 
course in the performance of a public duty and without reserve. 
Mr. Monroe refused to explain. Lowrie was thus brought in 
collision, upon a question of veracity, with two of the most power- 
ful men in the Country, and the Jackson newspapers, as well as 
those in favor of other candidates, regarding Crawford as the 
strongest rival of their respective favorites and desiring therefore 
to reduce his strength, attacked him [Lowrie] with much violence. 
My opportunities to become acquainted with his [Lowrie] character 
were, very ample and I never met with a more upright and virtuous 
man in the course of my life. 

Whilst the affair was in this condition, Mr. Lowrie's mail was one 
morning laid upon his desk, by one of the pages of the Senate, at a 

* Walter Lowrie and William Findlay. 



236 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

moment when my attention happened to be directed towards him. 
Sitting next to him I perceived that, on opening one of his letters, 
he turned very pale. To my enquiry as to the cause he replied quickly 
" See this!", and on examining the letter we found, to our amaze- 
ment, that it enclosed a copy of Mr. Monroe's reply to the letter 
from Gen. Jackson which the former had shewn to himself and 
Findlay. The copy was partly in Mr. Monroe's handwriting and the 
residue in that of his son-in-law, Mr. Hay, who had published several 
violent attacks upon Lowrie. It sustained everything that had been 
said by the latter and was accompanied by a brief anonymous note 
to the effect that the writer had been induced to send it to him by 
seeing the injustice which he was suffering. 

Struck by the delicacy of the affair in all its aspects and by a sense 
of the extent to which the possession of such a paper, in the absence 
of a satisfactory explanation as to the maimer in which it had come 
to Mr. Lowrie's hands, might be made to increase his embarrass- 
ments, I held the letter in my hand and beckoned to Mr. Macon to 
come to my seat. He did so immediately when I informed him of 
its contents, that I had seen Mr. Lowrie receive and open it, that he 
had immediately placed the enclosure in my hands and that Mr. 
Lowrie and myself asked the favor of him to take the papers into 
his possession, to authorize Mr. Lowrie to state publicly that they 
were in his keeping and to refer those who desired to see them to 
him for that purpose. Of the character of that venerable and just 
man, whose fame was and is co-extensive with our Country and 
whom all who^ knew him honored and esteemed for his exemplary 
purity, I have already spoken. There was perhaps no feature more 
marked in his long and creditable life than his freedom from the 
personal contentions to which public men are so often exposed. Pur- 
suing the even tenor of his way he seldom meddled in other men's 
affairs or became a party to their quarrels, but on this occasion, and 
without hesitation he replied, — -"Yes! yes! Give them to me. 
Lowrie is an honest young man — he has had great injustice done 
him. Give me the papers and I will stand by him be the conse- 
quences what they may." I gave him the letter, which had upon 
it the Richmond', Va., post mark, and which with its enclosures, he 
placed in the inner pocket of his coat, buttoning it up tightly as he 
walked away to his seat. 

Lowrie immediately apprised Mr. Monroe by a note that he was 
in possession of a copy of his reply to Gen. Jackson's letter and of the 
maimer in which it had come into his hands. He avowed his inten- 
tion to keep it as a protection against the charges which had been 
made against him, to a considerable extent with Mr. Monroe's co- 
operation, and urged him again to relieve him from the painful di- 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN YAK BUREN. 237 

lemma in which he was placed, by the publication of Jackson's let- 
ter; a document which Mr. Monroe had dedicated to public use by 
employing it as an excuse for his official course, to which act and 
its subsequent denial the difficulties in which Lowrie had been in- 
volved were fairly attributable. He also sent his friends Judge 
Baldwin and Speaker Stevenson 1 to the President to ascertain 
whether he had received his note and what he intended to do in the 
premises. Mr. Monroe's reply on both occasions was simply that he 
had not decided to take any further steps in the matter. °By this 
new phase of the controversy in which Lowrie had heretofore had 
the worst in consequence of the weight and power of his opponents, 
the tables were turned against them. His friends justified his reten- 
tion of the letter on the ground of its necessity to his defense in a 
matter in which it was now evident to all that he was the injured 
party and no proceedings could have been instituted to compel its 
surrender which would not disclose its contents. Nor was the dissat- 
isfaction of General Jackson with the course that had been pursued, 
which had been obvious from the beginning, at all diminished by 
the turn it had now taken. When he gave the advice in question he 
was Commander-in-Chief of the Army, with a soldier's antipathy 
to party politics and not regarding himself, in all probability, as 
within the range of Presidential candidates. When, several years 
after it was written, the use was made of his letter which produced 
all this evil, he was very likely to become one and was actually nomi- 
nated by his State a few months afterwards, and his strongest sup- 
port was believed to be in Pennsylvania, where the doctrines he was 
charged with advancing were especially unacceptable, quite as much 
so as in any State in the Union, and where from the circumstances 
of the case the knowledge of their having been so advanced was in a 
fair way to be brought to every man's door. Besides the great and 
well understood change in his position, he may have entertained a 
different opinion upon the point, as was certainly the case after- 
wards. All these things were open to Mr. Monroe's observation and 
reflection and it is difficult to believe that General Jackson was 
otherwise than dissatisfied that the President should have overlooked 
or disregarded them, when, after the lapse of years and without 
even asking his consent, he employed the advice given him in the way 
and under the circumstances, I have described. 

Doubtless in other respects the course that the matter had taken 
was very galling to the General. He hated concealments. There 
was no trait in his character more obvious to others or more proudly 
and justly asserted by himself than his fearlessness in declarin 

* Henry Baldwin of Connecticut and Andrew Stevenson. * MS. Ill, p. 25. 



238 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION". 

his opinions and his readiness to bear any responsibility attaching 
to the avowal of them. With the knowledge that I now have of 
him, in that respect, I can well understand the mortification he 
endured from seeming to be privy and consenting to an evasion 
in regard to his opinions, and the correspondence between him and 
Mr. Monroe plainly discloses the existence of this chagrin. 

Mr. Krehmer once more stepped forward and addressed him on 
the subject In the General's reply, which was throughout respect- 
ful to Lowrie, after saying that his correspondence with Mr. Monroe 
was private and confidential, although denying the version of hi** 
letter which he erroneously understood Mr. Lowrie to have given 
to it, he broke through the entanglements into which he had suf- 
fered himself to be drawn by a species of special pleading foreign 
to his nature and habits by admitting that his advice to Mr. Monroe 
had been to select for his Cabinet " men of probity and talents with- 
out regard to party." This was the substance of the advice con- 
tained in his letter to the President now expressed with more caution 
and in a way well calculated to make favorable impressions on the 
minds of large portions of the People. 

Having thus relieved himself from the quibbles that had been 
resorted to in his behalf by inferior minds, he said, " My opinions 
and sentiments such as they have been written or expressed, at any 
time, each and every one are at all times welcome to. In public 
or in private letters I but breathe the sentiments I feel and which 
my judgment sanctions, and no disposition will ever be entertained 
by me either to disguise or suppress them." 

He also informed Mr. Krehmer that Mr. Monroe had placed all 
his letters, at his own instance, in the hands of Major Eaton, with 
a view to their immediate publication. They were published and 
everything alleged by Mr. Lowrie in regard to the contents of the 
one read to him was fully sustained by the letter itself, and his 
course was not only fully vindicated before the Country but left 
impressions on the minds of his brother Senators which sought and 
soon found an opportunity for their gratification by his election to 
the profitable and honorable office of Secretary of the Senate. This 
place he held for many years during the most exciting periods in 
our political history and discharged its duties with credit to himself 
and to the satisfaction of every member of the body; at least I 
never heard the slightest complaint, from any source, of his official 
conduct and I have no doubt that he might have continued in the 
position, if he had desired it, to the present day. It was in refer- 
ence to him that John Randolph uttered the witty paradox, which 
contained an undisputed truth, ''that altho' he could neither read 
nor write he was the best clerk that any public body was ever 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN VAN BURBN. 239 

favored with ! " His reading was certainly not of the best and his 
penmanship egregious, but there was in him beside punctuality, in- 
dustry and order, a personal amiability which won the hearts, and 
a firm integrity and sound sense which commanded the respect, and 
confidence of all the Senators. 

His seat, while Senator, was, as I have said, next to mine and 
that of General Jackson directly before us. Altho? well advised of 
the extent to which Mr. Lowrie had been sustained and counselled 
by me thro' the trying positions in which he had been placed, the 
General seldom took his seat in the morning, especially whilst the 
matters of which I have been speaking were in progress, without 
exchanging friendly salutations and shaking hands with both of 
us* His respect for Lowrie was doubtless increased by the fact that 
the latter called upon him the moment the affair was made public, 
gave him an account of the contents of the letter read to him by 
Mr. Monroe, as they afterwards appeared, justified himself in 
speaking of the matter as he had done, but denied having had any 
agency in bringing the matter into the newspapers. The General 
was pleased with his candor and obvious sincerity and assured him 
that he should never object to let the letter speak for itself by its 
publication. 

I had good reasons to know that he cherished feelings of warm 
regard towards Mr. Lowrie to the last and, at the time, I was well 
satisfied that the whole transaction, so far from exciting his prej- 
udices against either impressed him most favorably towards both 
of ua 

Gen. Jackson's position in respect to the Tariff of 1891, acted 
upon on the eve of the Presidential election, was an embarrassing 
one. Pennsylvania, a strong tariff State, had been among the first 
to embrace his cause and she had done so with great zeal and 
power. A still larger portion of his strength was supposed to lie in 
the Southern and South Western States, which were all anti-tariff. 
He entered Congress with a general bias in favor of protection but 
with several reservations, the most prominent among which was a de- 
sire to limit Legislative encouragement to articles necessary to the de- 
fence of the Country in time of War. Altho' averse to the prostitu- 
tion of a question so deeply affecting the interests of the Country 
by using it for mere partisan purposes, he was, at the same time, 
unwilling to submit quietly to such an application of it by his 
enemies to his own prejudice. His military career, peculiar and 
difficult as was its character, had given him a spirit of watchfulness 
in regard to the movements of his enemies which was revived by 
the perplexing situation in which he found himself between Penn- 
sylvania, his Northern head-quarters, and the anti-tariff States of 
the South and stimulated into action by the obvious and persevering 



240 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

efforts of his opponents to prejudice him, thro 9 that channel, in the 
estimation of both. In this dilemma, and following his natural and 
always strong impulses to defeat the machinations of his enemies, 
he assumed a position in regard to it more equivocal than any he 
had ever occupied on any public question, if not the only one in 
his career to which such an epithet could have been applied with 
any shew of reason. He declared himself in favor of a " judicious 
tariff " — an avowal that was no sooner published than Mr. Clay at- 
tempted to scandalize it, for its ambiguity, by a characteristic shrug 
of his shoulders, a toss of his head and the counter-declaration — 
4; well, by , I am in favor of an injudicious tariff !" 

The' Tariff Bill of 1824, as it came from the House and was re- 
ported by the Senate Committee of Manufactures, contained a 
clause imposing a duty of 4£ cents on every square yard of cotton 
bagging imported into the United States — a provision understood 
to have been specially designed to favor large establishments for 
the manufacture of that article at Lexington, Kentucky. This 
provision was particularly obnoxious to the cotton growing States 
of Georgia, North and South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi and 
Tennessee, upon whose votes the General's supporters relied with 
confidence and the People of which, were among his most zealous 
friends. The numerous supporters of.Mr. Calhoun in those States, 
between whom and those of Mr. Clay — including the respective 
Chiefs — there existed, at that time, the most bitter animosity, per- 
sonal as well as political, united with the friends and supporters of 
Mr. Crawford not only in opposing the entire bill but in denouncing 
this part of it with special vehemance. They characterized it as a 
tribute extorted from the cotton growing states to enrich Mr. Clay's 
Kentucky pets, and the fact that those were the principal if not the 
only manufacturers of cotton bagging in the United States gave 
great force to their charges. These circumstances adding the force of 
personal and partisan prejudices to a fixed hostility to the policy of 
protection raised their oppugnancy to this particlar branch of it to 
f overheat and led to frequent and earnest remonstrances against the 
support that they feared General Jackson intended to give to it 
They often called him from: his seat, and as that was directly in 
front of mine and mine on the outside row, not a few of their con- 
ferences unavoidably took place in my hearing. 

The division of the Senate upon the Bill was known to be a 
very close one and great pains were taken by its more zealous 
friends to impress its supporters with a sense of the danger of 
losing it if material amendments were permitted to pass that body. 
The General so understood the matter and had made up his mind 

• MS. Ill, p. 30. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN VAN BUREN. 241 

to go for the Bill, as it stood, notwithstanding his repugnance to 
the cotton-bagging duty and the anxious wish of so many of his 
friends that he and his colleague, Major Eaton, should cause its 
rejection by their votes, which they had it in their power to do. 

When the cotton-bagging clause was reached Mr. Maoon moved 
to strike out altogether and when the ayes and noes were taken 
upon that motion I, who had until that moment in obedience to 
the wishes of my State, voted for the other parts of the Bill, an- 
swered in the affirmative, in consequence of which the vote on strik- 
ing out stood, ayes 28, noes 24; the General and his colleague both 
voting with the majority. Perceiving at a glance that my course 
threw the responsibility of the retention of the clause upon his 
own, vote, he turned around and under evident excitement ex- 
claimed—" You give way, Sir I " I replied, " No, Sir, I have been 
from the beginning opposed to this clause and informed Gov. 
Dickerson, when he reported the Bill, that I should vote against 
it unless the duty was greatly reduced. Subsequent reflection led 
me to regard this provision as an exceedingly exceptionable one 
and I finally determined to oppose it in any shape, and so informed 
the Governor.'' Before I had time to finish what I intended to 
say he stopped me and earnestly asked my pardon for meddling 
in a matter with which he had no right to interfere, declared that 
however great might be his disappointment at my vote, which had 
drawn from him, under the impulse of the moment, the remark 
he had made, he ought not to have forgotten that that vote was 
my own and thai he, at all events, had no right to call it in ques- 
tion; and he pressed me, with much earnestness, to say that I was 
satisfied with his apology, which I did. 

The Senate almost immediately adjourned and the excitement 
caused by the affair was even greater than could have been antici- 
pated. The discontent of some among the offended friends of the 
General soon found a vent As my candidate for the Presidency, 
Mr. Crawford was a citizen of a cotton growing State they saw, in 
the transaction, a plan to weaken their candidate and to strengthen 
our own, his most formidable competitor, in those localities, and I 
soon discovered, to my mortification, that a few of the friends of 
Mr. Crawford had not been backward in countenancing that idea 
by their encomiums upon the adroitness of the movement. I had 
not been, however, actuated by any such motive or by any other feel- 
ing than one of disgust at the nakedness and extravagance of the 
proposed bonus to Companies which had been formed to make money, 
which were without just claims to so large a share of Legislative 

favor, but which there was every reason to believe were at the time 
in the receipt of very liberal profits. 

127483°— vol 2—20 16 



242 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

So far was I from wishing to encrease Gen. Jackson's embarrass- 
ments, of much of which I had been an involuntary witness, that I 
had been on the contrary, so favorably impressed by his noble bear- 
ing in that very matter and by the promptitude and good feeling 
with which he atoned for his abrupt address to me, by his whole 
conduct during the exciting scenes of the Lowrie correspondence, 
and by his general bearing towards me, an undeviating opponent in 
the Presidential canvass, that my first impulse, on perceiving the 
excitement that had sprung up, was a desire to aid in relieving him. 
In this state of mind I approached him, on his appearance in the 
Senate, on the following morning, referred to the proceedings of the 
previous day and to the construction placed upon them by some of 
his friends and, to my great mortification, sanctioned, at least to 
some extent, by a few of mine, admitted that under existing circum- 
stances, I ought not to be surprised by such interpretations on the 
part of zealous and excited politicians, but assured him that they 
were nevertheless entirely unfounded. I then stated to him, more 
fully than I was permitted to do on the previous day the extent and 
character of my objections to the duty, reminded him that after the 
Bill was reported to the Senate Mr. Macon, after so close a vote, 
would undoubtedly renew his motion which would bring the ques- 
tion up again after the expiration of a week or two, that I would not 
be disappointed if other members by that time took the same view 
of the matter that I had done and that I sincerely hoped that he 
would be of the number. 

As I anticipated the motion was thus renewed after the Bill had 
been reported to the Senate from the Committee of the Whole; 
[John] Holmes, of Maine, changed his vote, as did also Gen. Jackson, 
and the clause was stricken out by a vote of 25 to 22. Gov. Dickerson, 
the Chairman of the sub-Committee, made the greatest efforts to re- 
store it, but with no other effert than to induce Mayor Eaton l the 
General's colleague, who had made a speech in favor of the clause, 
to vote against it also. The ferment among the General's cotton- 
growing friends subsided, and the subject passed from the public 
mind. 

Of the failure to elect a President and the choice by the House 
of Representatives at the next session of Congress I have already 
spoken. Gen. Jackson resigned his seat in the Senate at its close 
and retired to the Hermitage, where he awaited, with calmness and 
dignity, the judgment of the People upon the conduct of the House 
of Representatives. Nothing transpired during the session to change 
or affect our relations either personal or political save the natural 
tho' silent influence of a common defeat to increase mutual good 
will and sympathy. 

l John Henry Baton. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN VAN BUREN. ' 243 

From the day we parted at Washington to the evening on which 
I waited on him to enter upon the duties of the office to which he had 
appointed me there had been no personal intercourse between us, 
nor any correspondence or communication in any form, save a formal 
letter from him introducing one of his friends, one or two letters 
to him and the Nashville Committee in reply to calls for my opinion 
as to the proper course to be pursued in respect to certain points in 
the canvass, 1 all of which will be found in\he correspondence here- 
with published, 9 his letter of invitation to become a member of his 
Cabinet and my acceptance of it. The first information he received 
of my determination to support him, which was early formed, could 
therefore, as has been elsewhere stated, have been only derived from 
the newspapers or from the letters of others. 

1 A letter of Aug. 6, 1828, from W. B. Lewis asking for political advice is In the Van 
Bureau Papers, but no letter of this nature from Van Buren is now to be found either 
in the Van Buren or Jackson Papers. 

«It was Van Buren's intention to accompany this autobiography with selected letters 
from his papers an Intention he did not carry oat. 



CHAPTER XXI. 

On my arrival at Washington I found a very large number of 
letters, addressed to me from different parts of the Country by 
our friends, speaking of the state of public opinion in their re- 
spective vicinities in relation to the formation of the Cabinet and 
subsequent acts of the Administration. ° I will not give a detailed 
description of their contents which were, without any exception 
that I can remember, of the most gloomy character. This was per- 
haps the natural result of the circumstances which attended the 
beginning of the new Government. A very large majority of the 
supporters of President Jackson in Congress and of the active 
politicians who had been drawn to the seat of Government to wit- 
ness the ceremonies of the Inauguration were deeply dissatisfied 
with the first steps taken by the President of their choice. In very 
many instances their discontent was aggravated by private griefs, 
in more by the disappointment of friends for whose advancement 
they were solicitous and in not a few by sincere and disinterested 
sorrow in finding high anticipations dashed to the ground, as they 
supposed, by the formation of a Cabinet of which as a whole, they 
could not appit)ve. This influential mass embracing a large por- 
tion of the respectability and talents of our party, in returning to 
their respective States spread the opinion formed at Washington 
broadcast throughout the Country. The views they took of the 
matter and the opinions they had formed unhappily, to a great 
and influential extent, flowed into ears prepared, not to say, pre- 
disposed, to credit them. General Jackson was not the choice of 
the politicians, as a body, of any considerable portion of the States. 
Those of them who had enlisted in the support of his competitors 
Crawford, Clay, Calhoun, for a season, and Adams, at the pre- 
vious election, during that excited canvass had worked their minds 
into the strongest convictions of the truth of the impressions they 
had at the first imbibed of his unfitness for the place. These had 
been to a great extent, worn off by the collisions and still greater 
excitement of the recent election, leaving the subjects of them, 
however, liable to be more easily carried away by the first ad- 
verse current and they constituted the class to take active parts 
on such occasions who look narrowlv into the action of men in 
power and interfere with their proceedings thro' epistolary and 
personal remonstrances. 

• MS. Ill, p. 86. 
2*4 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MAKTIN VAN BURBN. 245 

It was doubtless from this class of the President's constituents 
that these complaints mainly proceeded. The judgment of the 
masses was still in abeyance. 

The duties imposed upon me in respect to these communica- 
tions were of an extremely delicate and responsible character. Their 
authors had' a right to expect that their views should be submitted 
to the President whom they had assisted to elect and they could 
not perhaps Tiave selected a more appropriate channel for that 
purpose. They told their story " free, offhand " and the remon- 
strances and advice were not always or indeed generally expressed in 
terms which excluded the idea of reproach ; and the peculiar delicacy 
of the task of submitting such to the President, by one whose relations 
with him were of a character I have described mine to have been, 
was not a little increased by the circumstances that for the most 
part they came from men with whom I had been closely allied 
in opposition to General Jackson, at the preceding election. My 
personal association with him as a political [friend was of but a 
few days standing and tho' cordial On both sides was not, for the 
reasons I have. intimated, at first entirely free from the embarrass- 
ments arising from antecedent events. I have moreover alluded 
to his state of body and mind, ill adapted to exhibit his character 
and disposition to the best advantage; still every thing that I saw 
and heard of and from him impressed me in the strongest manner 
with a conviction of his sincerity, integrity and straightforward 
truthfulness. 

I therefore determined to rely without reservation or hesitancy 
upon those qualities, to submit in their strongest aspect the adverse 
views of the course he was pursuing which were entertained by 
many who had supported his election and to leave our future re- 
lations to the judgment he should form upon the whole subject. 

With these views I selected from the mass of letters referred to 
and sent to the President one from Thomas Ritchie, the Editor of 
the Richmond Enquirer, then regarded, and I doubt not correctly, as 
my warm personal and political friend, who tho 9 he had supported 
General Jackson with much power and effect in the last election, 
had, with myself, opposed him before and in a manner and under 
circumstances calculated to excite in him for the moment, * strong 
feelings of dissatisfaction. It was enclosed with a note from myself : 

Martin Van Ruben to the President [Andrew Jackson]. 

My Dear Sib, 

On my return from your house last evening, I found the enclosed among 
some letters which I had not before been able to examine. Upon a careful con- 
sideration of its contents I find It to be so evidently written for your perusal 
as to make it something like a duty on my part to lay It before you; and 
1 do that the more readily from an entire consciousness that you wish to 



246 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

learn all that may be said with decency in respect to your administration by 
those interested in its success. I have known Mr. Ritchie long and intimately 
and am well satisfied that there is not a man of purer public spirit In the 
Country. The disinterestedness of his views with the great ability that has 
characterized his paper have given it an influence infinitely greater than any 
other press in the Union. Whatever you may think of the wisdom or Justice 
of the opinions expressed by such a man I am quite sure that they will 
receive from you a liberal and respectful consideration. 

Not being certain, from the great press that is made upon me, that I shall 
be able to see you today, I have thought proper to enclose it and will receive 
it again at your perfect leisure 
Yrs. affectionately 

March 31st, 1829. M. V. B. 1 

The President. 

Thomas Ritchie to M. Van Bttben. 
Deab Sib, 

This is in all probability the last letter I shall have the honor of addressing 
you for many years to come. Our respective situations, though vastly dif- 
ferent from each other, make such a correspondence delicate on both sides. 
A Secretary of State has his own duties to perform, and so has an Editor 
however humble he may be. I need.not be more explicit, but I cannot reconcile 
it to myself to remain altogether silent amid the scenes which I have wit- 
nessed. You are the only member of the administration with whom I am ac- 
quainted. I therefore address myself to you. If there be anything in this 
letter which you may think it proper to submit to (Sen. Jackson you are au- 
thorized to lay it before him, — and him only. In truth I would have addressed 
myself directly to him, but for my anxiety to preserve even the appearance 
of that respect which I sincerely feel for his character and himself. 

You, Sir, or perhaps Gen. Jackson, if he should see this letter, may charge 
the writer with arrogance, impertinence, call it what you will, for intruding 
my opinion, unasked and unacceptable upon the grave matters of which it 
proposes to treat. I am content to abide by your severest censures, as I am 
satisfied with my own motives. This letter is dictated by the most friendly 
feelings. It is from a sincere desire that you should be possessed of the state 
of public opinion in this part of the Country that I break thro* all the rules 
of etiquette. 

You know how anxiously I desired the election of General Jackson. My 
most Intimate friends have witnessed the joy which his success inspired. I 
regarded [it] not simply as the downfall of a party which had corrupted the 
purity of elections and abused its power for its own little purposes, but as a new 
epoch in the history of our Country, — as opening a bright prospect of wise and 
constitutional principles. I need not say, Sir, that I had nothing to gain except 
as one of ten millions of people. I have nothing to ask, — the administration 
has nothing to offer which I will accept 

Why this bright prospect is somewhat clouded over within the short space 
of thirty days I will not enter into a long recapitulation to explain. I pass 
over the Cabinet It has disappointed many of the sincerest of the President's 
friends. In the same proportion, that it dispirited them has it raised the hopes 
of their enemies. They have already raised the standard of opposition, and a 
rival, who was abandoning all his views in utter despair, was immediately ani- 
mated to enter the lists again. I do not speak at random when I make these 
assertions. The admirable Inaugural Address, however, counteracted these 

* In the Van Bursa Paper*. 



f 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN VAN BUREN. 24 1 

effects ° in some degree. It gave us all additional spirits. But, I speak it with 
profound regret, the subsequent appointments have thrown a cloud over our 
friends which it will require some time and great wisdom to dispel. We are 1 
sorry to see the personal friends of the President appointed ; we lament to see | 
so many of the Editorial Corps favored with the patronage of the Administra- • 
tlon. A single case would not have excited so much observation, — but it really 
looks as if there were a systematic effort to reward Editorial Partisans, which 
will have the effect of bringing the vaunted Liberty of the Press into a sort of 
contempt. I make allowance for the situation of these gentlemen. I know 
most of them are able and qualified. They have fought manfully to put out a 
corrupt coalition — They have fought with the halter round their necks; and 
not, as I have done, so much in the country of friends, as of enemies. I allow 
for all these things, and still the truth, cannot be disguised that the press, 
which shrinks like the sensitive plant from the touch of Executive Power, has 
been heedlessly handled. Invade the freedom of the press and the freedom of 
election, by showering patronage too much on Editors of newspapers and on 
Members of Congress, and the rights of the People themselves are exposed to 
imminent danger. I know that this was not the motive of such appointments ; 
but I argue about effect*: effects too not to be brought about by this administra- 
tion but by less worthy ones which are to succeed it 

There is some difficulty under all new Administrations to know whom to 
put out and whom to put in; and it is the right use of patronage under such 
circumstances that constitutes one of the most delicate operations of Govern- 
ment We should suppose that one pretty good rule was for the Chief Magistrate 
to consider offices not as made for himself, the gratification of his own feelings 
and the promotion of his own purposes, but as a public trust to be confided to 
the most worthy. I throw out this suggestion because I have seen too much 
stress laid upon the personal feelings of the President by some who did not 
sufficiently estimate the high station which he occupies. There is another 
thing. I go for reform, — but what is reform? Is it to turn out of office all 
those who voted against him, or who decently preferred Mr. Adams? Or is it 
not rather those who are incapable of discharging their duties, the drunken, 
the ignorant the embezzler, the man who has abused his official facilities to 
keep Gen. Jackson out or who are so wedded to the corruptions of office as to 
set their faces against all reform? Is it not to abolish all unnecessary offices 
and to curtail all unnecessary expenses? It surely Is not to put out a good 
and experienced officer because he was a decent friend of J. Q. Adams, in 
order to put In a heated partisan of the election of Gen. Jackson, which parti- 
san chooses to dub himself on that account the friend of Reform. I trust that 
such a spirit of Reform will not come near to us In Virginia. Should any one 
be seeking the loaves and fishes of federal office in Virginia I hope the Admin- 
istration will be very careful whom they may put out to serve such an office- 
seeker. There is no man whom I would touch in this city. 

The course of appointments at Washington is calculated to cool and alienate 
some of our friends. The enemies of the Administration are on the alert They 
are availing themselves of all our errors, while we are so situated that we are 
unable to justify or defend them. You can scarcely conceive the uneasiness 
which prevails. Will you excuse me for troubling you with the following Ex- 
tract which I have received from Washington, from a profound observer of 
men and things. He is a warm friend of the President — and no Virginian : — 

" I can read the history of this Administration more clearly than I did the 
late one and I was in no respect disappointed in my views respecting Its course 

* MS. Ill, p. 40. 



248 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

and termination. Under the profession of Reform changes will be made to the 
public injury. Let the rule be once known and every man who was not an 
active partizan of Gen. Jackson will be brought within it. A great number of 
violent men, alike destitute, I fear, of principle and intelligence, will be thrown 
into conspicuous positions, in the excitement, and placed in offices of trust. 
High minded and talented men, in such a result, will, for a time, be thrown 
into the shade. The contest will be for office and not for principle. This will 
Impair the moral force of our institutions at home and abroad, and may 
eventuate in their destruction. 

" Should the present Administration go down,, as I fear it will, and should 
.Clay come into power, on his system, I tremble for the Union. A scene of 
violence, reckless of consequences will then be the order of the day. This is a 
gloomy picture, and I wish to God I could persuade myself it is too highly 
colored. I see and understand perfectly all the movements made." 

My heart aches as I make this Extract Sincerely do I trust that its gloomy 
anticipations may be defeated, and that Gen. Jackson may lay down his power 
amid the loudest acclamations of a grateful people. I would do anything that 
was honorable and proper to lead to this result But I have done. 

I beg you to make no answer to this letter. I write in haste and with pain. 
Perhaps I ought not to write it at all. 

I am, Sir, resp*y 

Thomas Ritchie. 1 

Mabch 27th 1829. ^ 

Gen. Jackson's note, returning to me the above letter, it will .be 
seen bears date on the same day with my communication, to him and 
was as follows: 

President Jackson to M. Van Buren. 1 

1 have read the enclosed letter with attention and if the facts adverted to 
would warrant the conclusion the objections would he well founded. 

There has been as yet no important case of removal except that of General 
Harrison ; and I am sure if Mr. Ritchie has read the instructions given to our 
Ministers, who were sent to Panama, he must think the recall of General 
Harrison not only a prudent measure but one which the interest of the Country 
makes indispensably necessary. I have referred to the case of Gen. Harrison 
only, because I cannot suppose Mr. Ritchie has any allusion to the auditors and 
comptrollers, who were dismissed not so much on account of their politics as 
for the want of moral honesty. 

The gentleman who has been selected to supply the place of Genl Harrison 
is, I believe, as well qualified, if not better, than any other who would have 
undertaken the mission to that Country. 

I would advise the answering of Mr. Ritchie's letter; and in the most 
delicate manner to put him on his guard with respect to letter writers from 
Washington. The letter he has extracted from, instead of being from my 
friend must be from some disappoined office hunter — one who merely professes 
to be my friend, or perhaps from a friend of Mr. Clay in disguise. 

How could this letter writer know what changes were to be made? How 
can he pretend to foretell, without knowing who are to be appointed, that 
the changes will be injurious to the public interest? — You may assure Mr. 
Ritchie that his Washington correspondent knows nothing of what will 
be the course of the President on appointments, or he would have known 

*In the Van Buren Paper*. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN VAN BUREN. 249 

that the President has not nor will he ever make an appointment but with 
a view to the public good and the security of the fiscal concerns of the 
nation. He never has, nor will he appoint a personal friend to office unless 
by such appointment the public will be faithfully served I cannot suppose 
Mr. Ritchie would have me proscribe my friends merely because they are 
so. If my personal friends are qualified and patriotic why should I not be 
permitted to bestow a few offices on them? For my own part I can see no 
well founded objections to it In my Cabinet it is well known that there 
is but one man with whom I have had an intimate and particular acquaint- 
ance, tho' they are all my friends in whom I have the greatest confidence. 
But even if it were as Mr. Ritchie supposes, I have only followed the ex- 
amples of my illustrious predecessors, Washington and Jefferson. They 
took from their own State bosom friends and placed them in the Cabinet. 
Not only this but Genl Washington went even farther, — besides placing 
two of his friends from Virginia near him, he brought into his Cabinet 
GenT Hamilton with whom, if possible, he was upon more intimate terms 
that I am with any member of my Cabinet 

I have drawn your attention to these facts because I apprehend that our 
friend Mr. Ritchie had not reflected upon the subject or he would not 
have suffered himself to be so easily alarmed. I have, ' I assure you, none 
of those fears and forebodings which appear to disturb the repose of Mr. 
Ritchie and his Washington correspondent I repeat, it would be well for 
you to write. Mr. Ritchie and endeavour to remove his apprehensions of diffi- 
culty and danger. Say to him before he condemns the Tree he ought to 
wait and see its fruit The people expect reform, they shall not be dis- 
appointed; but it must be judiciously done and upon principle. 
Yours respectfully 

A. Jackson 

March 31st 1829 
Mr. Van Bother . 

In pursuance of the President's suggestion I wrote to Mr. Ritchie 

as follows: — 

M. Van Buukn to Thomas Ritchie. 

Private. 

Washington April 1, 1829. 

Deab Sib, 

I am constrained by my respect for your opinions and esteem for your 
personal character to disregard the delicate intimation at the close of your 
letter, so far at least as to acknowledge its receipt and to say a few words 
as to its contents and the direction I have given it 

Owing to the great number of letters I found here at my arrival requiring 
my attention yours did not fall under my observation until Monday evening. 
After a careful examination of its contents I believed it was due as well to 
the President as to yourself to submit It to his perusal, which was done 
on Tuesday morning. He read It with the best feelings and, on returning it 
to me, entered into a full explanation of the points to which you refer, with the 
utmost deference to the opinions you have advanced and respect for their 
author. 

I express his sentiments when I say that it Is at all times most agreeable 
to him to learn the candid opinions in relation to its course of those who 
take as I know you do, an interest in the success of his administration, and 

• MB. in, p. 45. 



250 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

to explain, as far as time and circumstances will permit, the principles by 
which every public act is regulated. 

Disclaiming all reserve with those whom he respects, it would be perfectly 
agreeable to him that you should be fully apprised of the motives and views 
that have actuated him in making the appointments to which you refer, and 
it will give me much pleasure should you visit this city (which I sincerely 
hope you may be able to do) to make you acquainted with both, under a 
sure conviction that you will admit the purity of the former if you cannot 
fully concur in the Justness of the latter. 

Your own good sense will satisfy you of the impracticability of avoiding 
mistakes or giving any thing like universal satisfaction in the discharge of 
that portion of the Executive duties which relates to appointments, par- 
ticularly under existing circumstances. It is not in the wit of man to do so. 
I have been here but a short time and cannot of my own knowledge say 
anything as to past measures, but I have seen enough to satisfy me that no 
man ever entered upon the duties of the Chief Magistrate of this or any other 
Country with greater purity of purpose or a more entire devotion to the 
honor of the Government and the welfare of the Country than did the present 
incumbent, and I shall be grossly deceived if in the sequel, that is not the 
opinion of the great body of the American People. 

Hoping soon to have the pleasure of seeing you I have only to ask that 
the coiltents of this as well as the fact that it has been written will be con- 
fined to your own bosom, and to assure you of my great respect and regard. 1 

If to these and such as these disturbing and discouraging matters 
be added the obstacles that were thrown into his path by means of 
the Eaton embroglio, — a private and personal matter which only 
acquired political consequence by its adaptation to the gratification 
of resentments, springing out of the formation of the Cabinet, and, 
as was supposed, to the elevation or depression of individuals in 
high positions, — we will be able to estimate justly the adverse in- 
fluences which surrounded President Jackson when he entered upon 
his official duties. 

Having as military commander abstained from frequent councils 
of war, because he thought they were too apt to be used to screen 
the General from a proper and often most salutary responsibility, 
he carried something of the same feeling into his action as President. 
His disinclination to Cabinet councils, springing in part from this 
consideration was doubtless greatly strengthened by the circum- 
stance that he foresaw, at an early day, the division that soon after 
broke out among his constitutional advisors, from the source to 
which I have alluded, and he fixed his course in the way he deemed 
best adapted to neutralize its effects. But whatever may have been 
his reasons the fact was that for a long time at least his practice 
was to have interviews with the heads of departments separately 
as often as was necessary to the proper discharge of the business 
entrusted to them and to ask the opinions of the other members also 
separately when he desired them upon questions not belonging to 

1 Draft in the Van Buren Papers. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF KABTIK VAN BUREN. 251 

their departments. One of the New York newspapers, friendly to 
him, whose Editor had visited Washington in mid-summer, said, 
and I have no reason to doubt, correctly, that down to that period 
not a single Cabinet meeting had been had for the dispatch of 
business. 

Soon after my arrival I met him [the President] to talk over the 
general concerns of the State Department The question that first 
presented itself for consideration was the condition of our represen- 
tation abroad, the expediency of changes, the extent to which it was 
desirable to carry them Aid the persons to be appointed. As soon as 
these points were broached he volunteered to say that he had com- 
mitted a great mistake in respect to portions of them for which he 
thought it was his duty to apologize, — that as he had selected me 
to manage that branch of our national concerns I ought to have 
been consulted in respect to the changes to be made and the selec- 
tion of the ministers, — that instead of this, induced by considera- 
tions which he stated and which were, tho' not consistent, as he 
admitted, with the proper transaction of business, creditable to 
his heart, he had disposed of the two most important Missions by 
offering that to England to Mr. Tazewell * and the French Mission 
to Mr. Livingston. 2 Having been apprised by Mr. Livingston him- 
self of these steps I was of course prepared to give my views in 
respect to them, and admitting, as I did cheerfully, that there were 
no two gentlemen in the circle of his friends better entitled to 
such a compliment as he had paid them or in whose behalf my per- 
sonal feelings would, on suitable occasions, be more cordially en- 
listed, I yet felt bound to say that, having regard to the character 
of the business to be attended to at those courts, viz: the settle- 
ment of the long pending and greatly complicated questions be- 
tween us and England in respect to the West India Trade and the 
still older and scarcely less difficult and tedious subject of our 
claims upon France, I had not been able to satisfy myself that he 
had been fortunate in his selections. I assigned my reasons for 
that opinion, at length, not, it is scarcely necessary to say, urging 
anything against the public or private worth or general capacity 
of either, but insisting that the public service in those respects 
would be, in all probability, more successful if those Missions had 
been entrusted to active young men whose reputation as Statesmen, 
unlike those of Livingston and Tazewell, were yet to be established. 
who would seize upon those questions which had so often baffled 
the capacities of old diplomatists with the spirit and vigour of 
youth and who would be sufficiently ambitious to encounter and 
resist the rebuffs to which, on such oft debated points, they must 

» Littleton W. TasewelL ■ Edward Livingston. 



252 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

expect to be exposed and to submit to the drudgery thro 9 which 
final success could alone be hoped for. 

He listened to me with marked attention and, when I had finished, 
said, with much feeling, that his own subsequent reflection had caused 
misgivings in respect to the adaptation of the gentlemen he had 
selected for the particular concerns with which they were to be 
charged and that the views I had expressed convinced him entirely 
that his course, tho' well meant, had been an unwise one', adding that 
nothing could afford him more satisfaction than to be able to recall 
the offers he had made if he could do so in a way ° perfectly consist- 
ent with what was due to his own honor and to the feelings of the 
gentlemen to whom he had tendered them, which we were agreed 
could not be done. But as his offers had neither been accepted nor re- 
fused, tho' considerable time had elapsed since they had been made, 
the prominence of the subjects referred to in the public mind and 
the desire that would naturally be felt by the parties particularly in- 
terested and by the friends of the Administration to see prompt and 
effective measures adopted to remedy what the latter had regarded 
as failures on the part of our predecessors, suggested the propriety 
of writing to those gentlemen assigning the reasons for speedy action 
and inviting them to give definite answers upon the point of accept- 
ance and to be ready, if they accepted, to start upon their respective 
missions as early as the first of August then next, which would leave 
them four months for preparation. To this he cordially assented 
and I promised to prepare the letters for his inspection. 

The missions in respect to which changes were resolved upon at 
that interview were those to England, France and Spain. For the 
last he invited me to suggest a name. I proposed that of Mr. Wood- 
bury, 1 which he promptly accepted. He had served with him in the 
Senate and as no member of the Cabinet had been taken from 
New England he considered his location fortunate* I wrote to Mr. 
Woodbury on the spot. 2 

In my letter I expressed a confident belief that " in the present 
state of things his talents (of which no one had a higher opinion 
than myself) would enable him to render essential service to the 
Country and acquire great credit to himself and that I was author- 
ized to say that the President embraced with pleasure, this, the earli- 
est opportunity which circumstances had allowed him; to manifest 
the high sense he entertained of his public services and of his (Mr. 
Woodbury's) claims upon his personal respect and esteem." 

Two weeks had not elapsed since I had parted from Mr. Wood- 
bury, at New York, at midnight, with evidences, both ocular and 
oral, of his serious disappointment, and feeling that the President 

• MS. Ill, p. 50. * Levi Woodbury. * Apr. 7, 1829, Van Buren Papers. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN VAN BUEEN. 253 

had made me the happy instrument of a good act in authorizing 
the offer to him of so honorable a mission I looked with much com- 
placency for the receipt of his answer, not doubting it would show 
that the wounded spirit had been healed, in some degree, at least, 
thro 9 my agency. 

It came, but not in the gratifying form I had anticipated, rather 
as a damper upon my feelings. He was very anxious to do what he 
could to "furnish the President with any influence in his power 
towards the successful accomplishment of the policy of his admin- 
istration, as thus far developed, and to obviate misapprehensions, 
prejudices'* Ac; but it was doubtful whether he would be able' to 
accept the mission, and he wanted information on certain named 
points before he could decide. These related principally to the busi- 
ness to be transacted in Spain — the time to elapse before he would 
have to start on his Mission — when his salary would commence if he 
accepted and how long he would be expected to remain abroad. 

Without changing our opinions in respect to the strong points in 
Mr. Woodbury's character or his capacity to make himself useful in 
the public service, this answer occasioned both to the President and 
myself no little surprise and disappointment. We could not help 
seeing that the President's prompt offer, and the flattering terms in 
which it had been conveyed, instead of being received as proof of our 
respect and esteem for him had filled Mr. Woodbury with exaggerated 
notions of our estimate of the importance to the administration that 
he should be conciliated. Yet this was all a mistake. He was one of 
the few prominent New England men who had withstood the sec- 
tional current in favor of Mr. Adams and remained with us thro' 
the election, for which reason, strengthened by the fact that the 
Eastern States were not represented in the Cabinet, I was desirous, 
sensible of his undoubted capacity, that he should receive an early 
proof of the favor and confidence of the Executive ; but there could 
not possibly have been a greater error than the supposition that, in 
the matter of appointments, President Jackson was ever influenced 
by any consideration like that here suggested. The conciliation of 
individuals formed the smallest, perhaps too small a part of his 
policy. His strength Jay with the masses and he knew it He first, 
and, at least in all public questions, always tried to be right and when 
he felt that he was so he apprehended little — sometimes perhaps too 
little — from the opposition of prominent and powerful men; and 
it must now be admitted that he seldom over-estimated the strength 
he derived from the confidence and favor of the people and his con- 
sequent ability to cope with his political opponents. 

Mr. Woodbury's letter was the first answer to the President's offer 
of important public employment after the organization of his Cabi- 
net and it doubtless served to put him a little upon his mettle. It 



254 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

besides presented a good opportunity for a brief expos£ of the course 
which he intended to pursue in similar cases. I have only the rough 
draft of my reply before me which I insert, as it furnishes from its 
confidential character, reliable evidence of the principles upon which 
the President acted in the discharge of his official duties. 

To Levi Woodbubt. 

v Private. 

Mr dear Sib, 

If you accept the President will expect you to leave the Country aa soon as a 
due regard to your private affairs wUl allow, so that you ore not detained 
beyond the first of August. Delay in the departure and dispatch in the return 
of our Foreign Ministers was a vice of the late administration which we con- 
demned then and must not practice now. The President will therefore expect 
that the Ministers appointed by him shall proceed upon their missions in a 
reasonable time and regulate the period of their return by the public interest 
and not by their pleasure or personal convenience. If good cause exists for an 
early return leave will of course be given but in the absence of special reasons 
a return in a shorter period than four years will not be anticipated. 

The President regards the Mission to Spain as the second in point of impor- 
tance in the present condition of our foreign relations, and testifies that con- 
viction by the fact of depriving himself of your services in your present highly 
honorable and cesponsible situation. 

Your salary will, in case of. acceptance, commence from the time you leave 
your home including a visit to this city which will be regulated by the period 
of your departure. 

Hoping that your decision will be such as I cannot but think will redound 
to your honor and advance the interests of the Country 
I am, dear Sir, 

Your friend and obd't serv't 1 

Mr. Woodbury's answer to this avowed his concurrence in the 
general views it expressed and disclaimed all desire to have prin- 
ciples so clearly conducive to* the public interests departed from on 
his account. He said that if the Mission had been for a specific 
object likely to be accomplished in a year or two, he would have 
overcome all objections and accepted the offer, but that his family 
were inflexibly opposed to accompanying him, that a large majority 
of his friends were adverse to his leaving the Country for so long 
a time, if at all, and as the mission was of a general character and 
must probably last four years, or longer, he was constrained with 
great reluctance to decline it. To put him entirely at his ease upon 
the subject, by direction of the President, I informed him that his 
letter had been submitted to the latter who found nothing in the 
reasons assigned otherwise than satisfactory — that he regarded the 
considerations upon whieh the declension had been placed as proper 
to be taken into view and to control the decision, and that it was a 
satisfaction to the President to know that one consequence of his 

» Written in April, 1829. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN VAN BUREN. 255 

disappoinment would be to save to the councils of the nation the 
advantages of Mr. Woodbury's talents and experience. 1 

In a subsequent letter, 3 based on the preceding one, Mr. Wood- 
bury assured the President of his entire willingness to fill any situa- 
tion under the Government which would not, like the Mission to 
Spain, require so long an absence from his family, and accom- 
panied that announcement with a gloomy account of the disordered 
condition of our own party and of the extraordinary activity with 
which the opposition had already entered on the canvass for the 
next Presidential election ; talked of resigning his seat in the Senate 
and of retiring from public life, &c., &c, upon all of which Gen. 
Jackson, in returning his letters to me, remarked in a note " that 
he inferred that Mr. Woodbury over rated the value of the aid that 
Mi?. Adams would be able to bring to Mr. Clay at the next Presi- 
dential election and was more alarmed than the facts would war- 
rant; that we had only to continue the course we have commenced, 
take principle for our guide and public good our end, and the people 
will sustain us." 

In this brief note and in that relating to Ritchie's letter are to be 
discovered the secret of the General's extraordinary popularity. Such 
an abiding trust in the integrity of the people and in their fidelity 
to those who are faithful to them, accompanied by a readiness to 
spend and to be spent in their service, a willingness at all times to 
sacrifice ease and comfort and if necessary to hazard his life for 
their safety could not escape their knowledge or fail to secure their 
love and gratitude. Since his character had become known to them 
by a long series of self sacrificing acts they had not doubted that a 
solicitude for their welfare most ardent and of never failing disin- 
terestedness was deeply seated in his heart and ever present to his 
mind. Nor was it surprising that this faith and these dispositions 
constituted such marked features in his character. They were nat- 
ural results of peculiar circumstances in his condition. No public man 
was ever so highly elevated of whom it could be said with more 
truth that he was one of the people. They were his blood relations 
— the only blood relations he had in this or, as far as is yet known, in 
any Country. No one stood nearer to him in that great natural tie 
than another. The remarkable success which crowned his efforts in 
their service had inspired him with a firm belief that to labour for 
the good of the masses was a special mission assigned to him by 
his Creator and no man was ever better disposed to work in his 
vocation in season and out of season. It is not surprising that with 
these convictions and dispositions he should have been so potent with 
a sagacious and just people. 

» May 3, 1829, Van Buren Papers. " May 18, 1829, ibid. ° MS. HI, p. 55. 



256 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

I have not introduced these particulars by way of blame or still 
less of disparagement but to give an inside view of the actions of 
public men — a view which generally differs materially from that 
which is seen by the public. The sequel of this work will shew how 
much tljere was in* Mr. Woodbury's career deserving of the respect 
and approbation of his Countrymen and of the support which both 
Gen. Jackson and myself gave to him to the very close of our public 
lives, notwithstanding striking peculiarities, I might almost say 
obliquities, in his political course. 

Mr. Tazewell, altho' willing to represent his State in. the Na- 
tional Legislature, appeared to me to be as free from the love 
of office as any man with whom I was associated in public life. 
He came to the seat of Government very soon after my arrival and 
I think before I wrote to him on the subject of the Mission to 
England which had been tendered to him by the President* He 
was he said unwilling to accept it unless he could satisfy himself 
that by doing so he would have it in his power to render his 
Country some signal service. Upon that point at least he seemed 
to carry his heart in his hand, and left no room for misconstruc- 
tion or doubt as to his sincerity. He had taken as Senator an active 
part in the proceedings of Congress on the subject of the West India 
Trade, but his hopes of a successful negotiation in respect to it 
were not sanguine* In this state of mind his purpose in coming to 
Washington was to ascertain whether it was at all probable that he 
would be able to exert an influence in behalf of the repeal or modi- 
fication of the corn laws, and to place the question of his accept- 
ance upon the result of that enquiry. He announced that deter- 
mination to the President and myself but we could not with truth 
give him any encouragement upon the point and told him so with- 
out reserve. Being well acquainted with the British Minister at 
Washington, Sir Charles B. Vaughan, and appreciating the sincerity 
and frankness of his character, he expressed a desire to see and 
consult with him upon it to which we saw no objections. He car- 
ried, I think, a letter from me expressive of his dears and of the 
President's approbation of the proposed interview, but Sir Charles 
expressed so confidently his conviction of the utter hopelessness 
of the proposed attempt that Mr. Taiewell returned and declined 
the Mission. 

I remember well how much pleasure and relief, amid our cares 
and vexations we experienced from the candid, unselfish and public 
spirited disposition shewn by him in these interviews. At the 
next session of Congress Mr. Tazewell embarked, or, I might per- 
haps with truth say, was drawn by his personal and political as- 
sociations into a violent opposition to the Treaty with the Sublime 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN VAN BUREN. 257 

Porte for the navigation of the Black Sea by American vessels — 
the occasion of the first overt act of Mr. Calhoun's opposition to 
the Administration of President Jackson. In this I, having con- 
ducted the negotiation, thought) him wrong and it was well under* 
stood that his State, although interposing no specific complaint, 
did not approve of his course; but whatever may have been the 
degree of credit or discredit due to his conduct on the latter occasion 
I have never forgotten his rare and admirable 'bearing on that to 
which I have first referred, and I take much pleasure in making this 
record of the transaction to which it related. 

Satisfied that he had been too hasty in respect to the appoint- 
ments to England and France, General Jackson informed me that, 
it it should become necessary to make new selections, he would 
expect me to name the men and that, having confidence in my judg- 
ment, it' was more than probable that he would adopt them. 

Mr. Berrien, who had been appointed Attorney General, was, 
at the moment, in Georgia arranging his private affairs prepara- 
tory to his removal to the seat of Government Assuming that 
he would prefer the place of Minister to England the President 
authorized me to offer him an exchange of places and, on the as* 
sumption that he would certainly consent to it, to offer the At- 
torney Generalship to Mr. McLane, which was done without wait- 
ing for Mr. Berrien's answer. Mr. McLane's reply addressed to 
me in an unofficial letter, did not come up to my anticipation, but 
the President was predisposed to regard it in the most favorable 
light and I was too partial to him to scan his faults. He con- 
fessed that he had not his own free consent to accept the place and 
did so reluctantly, regarding it as a sacrifice to the interests of his 
large family (which did not leave him at liberty to be fastidious, 
or to consult his own inclinations) and to those of the cause and 
of his friends; adding that "if he could have supposed the Presi- 
dent intended to make any immediate provision for him he could 
have suggested one much more desirable to himself and probably 
equally so for him and all others. He thought moreover that he 
(the President) had purchased the change in the office of Attorney 
General at too great a price." 

° Fortunately, as we supposed, for the gratification of our friend 
McLane, the Attorney General decided to remain where he was, and 
not doubting that it was the English Mission to which the former 
referred as the place that would have been more desirable to him- 
self and the arrangement probably equally satisfactory to all others, 
I forthwith presented his name to the President who authorized me 

• • MS. Ill, p. 60. 

127483°— vol 2—20 17 



258 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

to offer it to him. But we were destined to further disappointment. 
From Mr. McLane's answer, addressed to me, a^ before unofficially, 
it appeared that my letter had "embarrassed him;" that when he 
wrote me the day before accepting the office of Attorney General 
"he was not altogether without his fears that Mr. Berrien might 
not assent to the change for what was so desirable to us and on 
which account principally he had decided as he did, i. e. to be with 
me in the Cabinet, and for that very reason the change might not 
be agreeable to him." To this it was added, among other things, 
that he hoped that his letter to the President however would shew 
his disposition to consult his own and the honor of the administra- 
tion, and thus " preserve my (his) chance for what I will frankly 
tell you would make me happier than any other honor — the Bench." 
Meantime, that chance not being impaired, the Mission to England, 
he thought might be turned to even greater advantage, &c ; that con- 
sidering moreover the impropriety of exposing you (me) and the 
President to many rejected offers as to this Mission, at this period 
of the administration and understanding from your (my) letter 
that your (my) individual views are in favor of this determination 
I will accept the Mission to England * * * "I must trust to 
your friendship and sagacity to keep me in the mind of the President 
and to give such a direction to this affair as may ultimately end 
best for us all." 

Upon the suggestion of my esteemed and noble hearted friend, 
Capt. Jack Nicolson, of the Navy, I proposed the name of Wash- 
ington Irving, who was then in England, for the place of Secretary 
of Legation to the English Mission to the President and on obtain- 
ing his assent I wrote to his brother Judge Irving * for his opinion 
whether it would probably be acceptable, and receiving a favorable 
answer, the appointment was forthwith made. 

If Mr. Livingston manifested less indifference to the acquisition 
of his place than Mr. Tazewell it was not because he estimated more 
highly the distinction or craved the emoluments of office. The 
enjoyment of official pomp and circumstance is, quoad the United 
States, an Eastern or New England feeling and is still fostered 
there by the ceremonies and forms incident to public authority. 
My friend Woodbury, tho' too sagacious to waste much of his 
earthly substance on account of it, yet took great satisfaction in 
its indulgence when attainable without too much pecuniary sacri- 
fice, and Webster's passion for it was of a still stronger type. 
The latter was never more at home or in gayer spirit than when 
playing the potentate within the circle and to the Qxtent of his 
official possessions. The Southern people were remarkably free from 

1 John Treat Irving. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN YaN BUREN. 259 

this weakness nor was there ever much of it in the Middle States. 
Regarding Webster and Woodbury, from the North, and Marshall 
and Tazewell, from the South, as examples of the extent of it in 
their respective sections they represented in this respect antipodes 
whom it would be difficult to imagine belonging to the same Country 
and reared under the same Government. 

Tazewell, altho' well educated and, in the beet sense of the term, 
a gentleman, would not have been called a literary man, and I am 
sure he derived more social enjoyment from his games at quoits with 
Chief Justice Marshall, Gen. Wickham, 1 Dr. Brockenborough 2 and 
others like them at Richmond, or from dinners of sheeps-head with 
his unceremonious but well bred friends and associates at Norfolk, 
than he could promise himself abroad. To Mr. Livingston nothing 
could be offered more agreeable than the opportunity and facility 
for the cultivation of letters and the society of the highest living 
authorities in art and science at Paris as the fruition of long 
cherished anticipations of that character. Mrs. Livingston was 
French by birth and education and possessed withal superior accom- 
plishments and qualifications for the station to which she seemed des- 
tined. Besides these circumstances the French Mission had long 
been a source of honorable pride in his family, having been the 
highest official distinction enjoyed by his distinguished brother 
Chancellor Livingston, one of the Committee which reported the 
Declaration of Independence; in after times it attracted to his own 
to distinguish it from a worthy connexion of the same name the 
sobriquet of French Edward. 

But altho 9 he did not lack inducements, worthy to be taken into 
consideration in making up his own opinion, there were others en- 
titled to more influence with the President. He had become satisfied 
that altho 9 no appointment could be made that in respect to his indi- 
vidual feelings it would give him more pleasure to make and perhaps 
none that would add more dignity to the Mission, the selection might 
not prove to have been a fortunate one in view of the particular sub- 
ject to be acted upon and which he was very desirous to adjust. 

I opened a correspondence with Mr. Livington upon the subjects 
of his acceptance of the Mission and the period of his departure 
which resulted in his declension on account of the state of his private 
affairs which required his presence in the United States to a later 
period than any to which his departure could, in his own opinion, 
be properly deferred. Subsequent transactions, to be hereafter re- 
ferred to, would be sufficient to shew, if proof of the fact could be 
thought necessary, that the result in no degree affected the friendly 
relations which had long existed between him, the President and my- 

•Jolm Wickham. 'Dr. William ? Brockenborough * MS. Ill, p. 65. 



260 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION-. 

self. His decision to decline was, on the contrary, conveyed to the 
President in a letter which both in matter and manner were highly 
honorable to him. 1 

By the invitation of the President I suggested a name for the 
vacant mission — that of William C. Rives, of Virginia, to which 
he readily agreed, and Mr. Rives promptly accepted the offer. Mr. 
Livingston's letter to the President having been received by the 
morning mail from the North I wrote to Mr. Rives by the Southern 
mail on the same day. On the following morning Mr. Livingston 
presented himself at my office and thinking it possible that he came 
to withdraw his declension I informed him at once and in suitable 
terms of what had been done on the previous day. Nothing appeared 
during his short stay to confirm or disprove that suggestion, but I 
have always been of the opinion that such had been his intention. 

The President selected from several names presented for the Mis- 
sion to Spain, which had been declined by Mr. Woodbury, that of 
Gov. Van Ness, 8 of Vermont, and he was commissioned accordingly. 
Mr. Van Ness was a man of rare natural endowments and occupied 
a position among the friends of the National Administration in 
New England which entitled him to its favorable consideration. 
My relations with his family had been for years of an unfriendly 
character but I acquiesced cheerfully in his selection. The ap- 
pointments of Mr. Preble 8 to the Netherlands, Mr. Randolph 4 to 
Russia, and several Charges to other Countries having been agreed 
upon subsequently, I entered upon a very full examination of the 
condition of the public business at the different points to which 
new Ministers were sent, the actual state and past history of unfin- 
ished negotiations and the collection of materials for new instruc- 
tions. Upon this work was bestowed between two and three of 
the most laborious months of my whole life. Other matters, of 
course, appertaining to the Department of State, occupied portions 
of my attention. Communications between the President and For- 
eign Ministers had been postponed till my arrival and I was grieved 
to learn from a friendly and well informed source that impressions 
adverse to the former had been made upon most of the members 
of the Diplomatic Corps. Naturally inclined, from causes that need 
not be stated, to side with the party least imbued with the demo- 
cratic spirit of the Country, the members of that body have been 
always predisposed to approach with distrust any Chief Magis- 
trate elevated to power by that influence. The character of the 
canvass which resulted in the election of Gen. Jackson and the 

1 Livingston to Jackson, May 3, 1829, In the Van Buren Papers. 
•Cornelius Peter Van Ness. 
•William Pitt Preble. 
'John Randolph, of Roanoke. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MABTIN VAN BUBEN. 261 

unprecedented extent to which the feelings of the masses of the 
People had been enlisted in his favor had added much strength 
to this bias. Apprehensions arising from that and kindred sources, 
stimulated by the gossips of the Capital, a class to whose reports 
diplomatists are always ready to listen, had, I found, grown to a 
sort of panic An idea of the nature and prevalence of this feel- 
ing may be formed by recurring to the interview between Mr. and 
Mrs. Livingston and myself at Philadelphia. If persons of their 
intelligence so well acquainted with Gen. Jackson, understanding 
the many admirable and strong traits in his character and withal 
sincerely solicitous for his success, could imbibe such gloomy views 
of the state of affairs at the seat of Government, in respect to points 
in which the Foreign Ministers took great interest, what must have 
been those of the Ministers themselves, entertaining in advance the 
apprehensions to which I have alluded. 

I made it my business, without delay, to see Baron Huygens, the 
Minister from Holland, with whom as a brother Dutchman I had 
previously established very friendly relations, and Sir Charles R. 
Vaughan, the British Envoy, with whom I had been for some time 
also upon intimate and cordial terms, and to do what I could to 
remove the unjust impressions of which I have spoken, and I met 
with a degree of success which the elevated character of both had 
given me good reason to anticipate. I next invited the Diplomatic 
Corps, by direction of the President, to meet me in a body, at the 
Executive Mansion with a view to their presentation and on the 
evening before the day appointed for that purpose I sent the follow- 
ing note 

To the President. 
Deab Sib 

In conversation last evening with Mr. Huygens he made a suggestion which 
I think deserves consideration. I mentioned to him, as I had before done to 
Sir Charles Vaughan, that as the only object of the introduction tomorrow 
was to relieve them and yourself from the embarrassments resulting from the 
very irregular interviews which had previously taken place, it could not be 
necessary to have anything like formal addresses. To this both assented and 
Mr. Huygens added that an impression had been made in Europe of an un- 
favorable character in respect to your dispositions in respect to our foreign 
relations; that they (the Diplomatic Corps) had already seen sufficient to 
relieve whatever apprehensions might have existed upon that point and were 
U 1 strongly disposed by their reports to do all in their power to effect the same 

to result at their respective courts; that the invitation for to morrow was very 
proper in itself and had been well received and that if you should choose to 
submit a few observations to them of a general character and advancing only 
the same sentiments as those contained in your inaugural address, it would, 
be thought, enable them to do great good at homes, 

I submit to you whether avoiding anything like a set speech, and without 
designing it for any other publication than would be given to it by the Ministers, 
in their reports, and by common fame, you might not say to them, with ad- 



it- 

ti- 



er; 



th 



262 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

vantage, that the sentiments you expressed in your inaugural address in regard 
to the foreign relations of the Country you now repeat to them; that your 
opinion now is and always has been that the true Interests of this Country 
would always be best consulted by preserving the relations of peace with all the 
world, and an Intercourse founded upon principles of fair reciprocity ; that 
you entered upon the trust committed to you without foreign prejudices or 
predilections and with personal feelings of the most friendly character towards 
every nation with whom we have intercourse, and that it should be your en- 
deavour as It was your sincere desire to promote the° interests of your own 
Country, without doing, injustice to the rights of others, by the most frank, 
friendly and sincere negotiations. 

I shall have the pleasure of seeing you either this evening or In the morning. 
Yours truly 

Sunday Morning 

April 5th, 1829. 

The attendance of the Ministers was full and after they had been 
individually presented to the President he made them a, brief ad- 
dress, expressing substantially the ideas which had been suggested, 
which, delivered in the General's invariably happy and impressive 
manner was received with the highest satisfaction and a copy having 
been furnished to each, at their request, was forthwith forwarded to 
their respective governments. The introduction was followed by 
invitations to dinner and an entertainment, to say the least of it, not 
inferior to those to which they had been accustomed, on similar oc- 
casions, anywhere. The simple yet kindly old-school manners of 
the host with the amicable assurances of his address and the unex- 
ceptionable quality of his banquet made the most favorable impres- 
sions upon the guests which they took no pains to conceal, and thus 
the anxieties of these gentlemen were completely relieved and their 
prejudices materially softened by the most approved diplomatic ma- 
chinery. 

Notwithstanding these auspicious signs of improvement in one 
branch of the public service, circumstances soon occurred in another 
by which my own continuance in the Cabinet was, for a brief period, 
involved in difficulty and doubt. 

The President made it a rule of his administration from which he 
very rareiy departed, to bring all questions in respect to which he 
had reason to anticipate opposition from his Cabinet, to a speedy 
decision, — a practice, founded in good sense and an accurate knowl- 
edge of human nature, which served to prevent the heart-burnings 
and excitement which such differences in opinion, when often dis- 
cussed and long kept on foot, seldom fail to engender. He had 
doubtless, from a very early period, decided to appoint Samuel 
Swartwout Collector of the Port of New York, and, without any- 
thing having passed between us upon the subject, seemed to have 

• MS. Ill, p. 70. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN VAN BUREN. 263 

expected opposition from me, certainly, and possibly from the Sec- 
retary of the Treasury. He waited no longer than was made neces- 
sary by his indispensable attention to other important points which 
arose upon the complete organization of his Cabinet before that 
matter was brought forward and first broached to me in the follow- 
ing note : 

April 20th, 1829. 
Db. Sib 

I have this morning sent to Mr. Ingham 1 the papers in relation to the 
New York Custom?, requesting him after he examines them to hand them 
to you. Will you also have the goodness to look at them and give me your 
opinion in writing on the relative merits of the several applicants specifying 
at the same time the offices to which you would appoint them, and how 
far the principles we have adopted would justify dismissals from office in 
that Port? I wish now to act promptly on a subject which has a good deal 
worried me. 

In addition to the papers sent Mr. Ingham this morning I have a few 
more confidential letters, for the most part in favor of Mr. Swartwout The 
two Senators from New York, also, verbally recommended Mr. Swartwout. 

I am, very respectfully Yrs &c 

Andrew Jackson 

Mr. Van Buben. 

Although the General referred to the appointments in the Custom 
House generally, that of Collector was the bone of contention by 
which he had been worried. Upon examining the documents sent 
me I found the President's files as was usually the case on similar 
occasions, overburthened with recommendations in favor of Swart- 
wout's appointment from persons too many of whom would have 
been bad advisers under any circumstances and had no right to speak 
for the friends of the administration in the City, and not a few of 
whom had opposed us in the election, with scarcely a communica- 
tion from those who were best entitled to be heard from on the sub- 
ject. 

After consulting with the Secretary of the Treasury I wrote to 
our friends in New York apprising them of the danger of Swart- 
wout's appointment unless they forthwith presented to the President 
unequivocal evidence of the sense of the city and advising that the 
Chamber of Commerce should be applied to for an expression of their 
opinion, not doubting that they would, notwithstanding their gen- 
eral political opposition to the administration, step forward, in a 
case of such magnitude and endeavour to prevent the great evil 
which I thought the appointment of Swartwout would be. I wrote 
to our Senators Dudley and Sanf ord, 2 to know whether they had rec- 
ommended the act and received the fullest assurances from them that 
the, President had been deceived upon that point. Having taken 

1 Samuel D. Ingram. * Charles E. Dudley and Nathan San ford. 



264 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

these steps to secure an interference from the proper quarters, I pre- 
pared an opinion, in compliance with the President's invitation,, 
which filled several sheets, stating unreservedly the objections to th& 
appointment of Swartwout and to the character of the recommenda- 
tions in his case, and suggesting the names of John Ferguson or 
Saul Alley for the office in question. 
The following is an extract from my written opinion : — 
I have known Mr. Swartwout for many years although not intimately. I 
have always regarded him as a generous, warm-hearted, and high-spirited man, 
influenced by kind feelings to his friends and have consequently never enter- 
tained any other than friendly feelings towards him personally. Politically 
he has never been and is not now in a situation to make his opinions the cause 
of prejudice or solicitude with me. It is my clear and decided opinion (and 
a firmer or better grounded conviction I never entertained in my life) that 
the appointment of Mr. Swartwout to the office of Collector of the Port of New 
York would not be in accordance with pubUc sentiment, the interests of the 
Country or to the credit of the administration. Deeply impressed with the pe- 
culiar importance of this appointment and anxious fully to discharge the duty 
imposed upon me by your request, and by the relation in which I stand to you, 
I feel it my duty to add that his selection would in my judgment be a measure 
that would in the end be deeply lamented by every sincere and intelligent 
friend of your administration throughout the Union. 1 

This opinion was dated April 23rd, and delivered to the Presi- 
dent on the next morning. 

The Secretary of the Treasury informed me that he had prepared 
an opinion, coming to the same result, but as he did not seem dis- 
posed to compare notes with me I did not press him to do so, and I 
never saw the views he presented of the subject. During the even- 
ing of the day on which our opinions had been delivered I received 
the following notes: 

Fbom the President. 

April 24th, 1829. 
Db Sib, 

I have looked over your views and expositions as to the appointments in the 
Customs of New York with great attention and care, and, with the best light* 
afforded to my judgment, have settled in the determination to place Mr. Samuel 
Swartwout in the office of Collector. It will be matter of regret to me If our 
friends in New York shall complain of the selection, but from the strong and 
highly respectable recommendations presented in his favor I cannot suspect 
that any greater dissatisfaction will be produced than would be towards almost 
any other who might be selected ; perfect and entire unanimity in appointments 
is not to be expected. 

Respecting Mr. Swartwout all agree, and many have spoken, that he is a 
warm hearted, zealous and generous man, strictly honest and correct in all his 
dealings and conduct ; none have impugned his ° integrity or honor. He is re- 
puted to be poor, but as an honest man is " the noblest work of God," I cannot 
recognise this as an objection to any man. Mr. Jefferson's rule " is he honest — 
is he capable," I have always admired. This being the case of Mr. Swartwout, 

> In the Van Buren Papers, April 23, 1829. ° MS. Ill, p. 75. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN VAN BUREN. 265 

from his recommendations, and it appearing that he can give the necessary 

security required of him, I have thought proper to appoint him. 

Your friend 

Andrew Jackson 

Mr. Van Buben. 

Respecting the appointment at Nashville (Attorney) I shall leave that to you ; 
fair reciprocity is always right, and as I have given you, in your State, a Collec- 
tor, I leave you, in mine, to give us an Attorney ; asking nothing more than that 
you will give us as Qualified a man. I have directed all the recommendations to 
be sent you for the applicants for this office. 

Yours, &c 

Andrew Jackson 

April 24th 1829 
To the Sbc'y of State 

These notes were accompanied by another informing me that 
he had appointed my friend, James A. Hamilton, District At- 
torney for the Southern District of New York. The President was 
well warranted in assuming that I was friendly to Mr. Hamilton 
and took an interest in his welfare. He carried a letter from me to 
Gen. Jackson when he went to New Orleans in his company, as a 
representative of the Tammany Society, to attend a celebration 
of the successful result of the Presidential election, and, after my 
appointment, I had also suggested his name to the President as 
Acting Secretary of State, during the interval previous to my 
arrival at Washington. But he was mistaken in supposing that I 
wished Mr. Han^ilton to have or would have recommended him for 
the appointment conferred upon him. I could not have done so 
with justice to my political friends in New York and the appointee 
was himself too well satisfied of this to broach the subject to me, if 
he was advised of what was intended, of which I know nothing. 
He was sitting by me when the President's notes were received and 
they were instantly communicated to him. He said that he had not 
anticipated his own appointment, or words to that effect, to whicli 
I replied that he must be sensible that the difficulties of my position 
growing out of the appointment of Swartwout, with reference to 
the feelings of my New York friends, would be materially in- 
creased by what had been done; he admitted that such might be 
the case but added nothing further and I did not think that I had 
a right to say more. If I had received the slightest intimation that 
such a step was in contemplation my dissent would have been 
promptly expressed, altho' jiot for reasons founded on a want 
of integrity or capacity on his part. The General had doubtless 
been induced to believe either from the facts to which I have alluded, 
or thro' representations of Hamilton's friends, that his appoint- 
ment would go far to reconcile me to that of Swartwout. I did not 
think, as I have said, that I had a right, under the circumstances, 



266 AMERICAN HISTORICAL, ASSOCIATION. 

to ask him to decline, but so far as appearances could speak, he was 
not left in doubt in respect to my mortification at the whole trans- 
action. 

I had been from the beginning aware of the strong preference 
which Swartwout's apparently chivalrous character and engaging 
manners had excited in the breast of the President, but I had not 
anticipated nor was I at all prepared to witness its influence in. 
so grave a form. The result came upon me at a moment when 
my health was feeble and my spirits depressed, and, tho' I had 
resisted all the reasonings that had been given to me, since my 
appointment, by men whose friendship I did not in the least doubt, 
my mind was not at ease in regard to my position. I took my hat 
and walked the streets of Washington until a late hour of the night 
deliberating whether I ought not to adopt the advice I had received 
and to resign a post surrounded by such embarrassments, but I re- 
turned to my lodgings and retired to my bed with my views in 
respect to the path of duty painfully unsettled. I need scarcely 
say that it was not by the possible consequences of a single appoint- 
ment, important as that undoubtedly was, that I was induced to 
raise the question which I canvassed with so much earnestness. 
The evils I apprehended from a step of that character might, after 
all, not occur, or might be limited in extent, but the feeling which 
so deeply disturbed me arose from an apprehension, excited by 
what had just occurred that my dissatisfied friends might prove 
to have been right in their belief that persons Vho could never 
possess my confidence had acquired an influence over the President's 
mind which would force me to an ultimate resignation if they 
retained it. 

But the first impressions of the morning, always to me the clear- 
est and the best, presented the subject in a light which, tho* not 
divesting it of a few painful features, indicated the right way with 
reasonable distinctness. I was satisfied that in deciding upon the 
effect which this act of the President ought to have upon my own 
course I could not properly go beyond the motives by which I 
believed him to have been actuated. If I could think for a moment 
that he had made the appointment with impressions of Swartwout's 
character similar to my own my instant withdrawal was a matter 
of duty, but if on the other hand I felt authorized to assume that 
he had acted in good faith, under a sincere conviction that those 
impressions on my part were unfounded, and that whilst he grati- 
fied his personal predilections, he at the same time consulted well 
the public interest, I could not make his a«t the ground of resig- 
nation without pretending to rights which I did not possess. He 
was alone responsible for it and had extended to me all the con- 
sideration due to my position by asking and respectfully considering 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN VAN BUREN. 267 

my advice. To have claimed more might well have been thought 
an encroachment on his Constitutional rights. A perseverance on 
his part in acts of the same nature to an extent sufficient to shew, 
beyond reasonable doubt, a radical and incurable defect in his char- 
acter, would change the state of the question, but as matters stood 
my first duty was to try to prevent a state of things so greatly to be 
regretted and there was certainly much in the way the act in question 
had been performed to encourage me in making such an effort. 

There were moreover certain other considerations of much weight 
in fa\jor of the course I decided to pursue. I could not help feeling 
that my position was a peculiar one and that there were responsibili- 
ties attached to it of a character widely different from those which 
ordinarily attach to occupants of public stations, to explain which 
I must take the risk of exposing myself to the charge of excessive 
vanity — about the only reproach which my political enemies had 
never laid at my door. No man ever attained to eminence in our 
Country who was more exclusively the artificer of his own fortunes 
than was General Jackson, or whose unsurpassed personal popularity 
was founded to a greater extent upon the confidence of the People 
in the integrity of his motives and in the value of his disinterested 
services, unaided by extraneous or adventitious circumstances. In 
respect to practical good sense, sound and ripe judgment, knowledge 
of human nature, indomitable and incorruptible spirit and general 
capacity for business a large majority of the People of the United 
States relied upon him with the greatest confidence and with entire 
justice. But of his experience in executive duties like those which 
appertain to the office of President and of his habitual self control, 
a matter of vital importance in that high station, many of his warm- 
est supporters were not without lively apprehensions — a portion anx- 
iously distrustful. Hence arose a general solicitude on the part of 
his friends that he should have nearest to him in his Cabinet one to 
whose qualifications and discretion, in those respects, they might 
trust. The gratification of this desire was looked for, as the result 
proved, with unusual unanimity, in my appointment as Secretary of 
State, whether rightly or not is a question which, in this view of 
the subject, it is not necessary to consider. Accordingly the result 
of the election was no sooner known than there arose, spontaneously 
throughout the Country, without respect to sections or cliques, a call 
upon the new President from those who had raised him to power 
for that appointment. To that expression there was no avowed 
exception. I have heretofore quoted Gen. Jackson's published dec- 
laration that he considered my name to have been placed before him 
for the place to which he called me by the united voice of the politi- 

* MS. III. p. 80. 



268 AMEBICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

cal party by which he had himself been elected — a declaration often 
repeated by him in conversation and in letters as well while the 
formation of the Cabinet was in progress as subsequently. Thus 
holding my post my reflections satisfied me that I was not at liberty 
to withdraw from it without farther efforts to realize the wishes of 
those who had given me this gratifying proof of their confidence. 

Under these impressions I decided to remain and only asked the 
consent of the President that I should inform my friends in New 
York that the appointment of Swartwout had been made against 
my earnest remonstrance and that of Hamilton without my knowl- 
edge or desire. This he promptly gave in a letter which statM the 
facts exactly and which he advised me to send to my friend Mr. 
Cambreleng with permission to shew it to whom he pleased. Swart- 
wout succeded in making himself a popular Collector and the Presi- 
dent made occasional good-natured allusions to the apprehensions I 
had exhibited on the* occasion of his appointment, speaking of the 
matter as the greatest of the few mistakes he had known me to make* 
After I had resigned the office of Secretary of State and whilst we 
waited for the carriage in which he was about to accompany me a 
part of the way to Baltimore he placed in my hand my protest 
against Swartwout's appointment saying that it was a document 
which would not read well hereafter when it is considered how great 
was the error on which it was founded and begging me to take it 
and destroy it, or to permit him to do so. Perceiving the kind feel- 
ing in which the proceeding originated, I replied that I could not 
consent to its destruction, that I was free to confess that appear- 
ances favored his opinion but that the affair was not ended nor my 
apprehensions removed; that, however, if he would permit me, I 
would endorse upon it my sense of the kind motives which induced 
him to return it and that I accepted it because I could not deny 
the gratification which I knew he took in doing what he considered 
a favor to his friends. I wrote the endorsement in the carriage, read 
it to him and he laughed at my obstinacy/ 

The sad catastrophe which followed is well known. The subject 
was never afterwards referred to between us. Even during my visit 

•That my strong apprehensions were not confined to myself abundantly appears from 
Mr. Cambreleng's reply to my letter notifying him of Swartwout's appointment, from 
which I extract the concluding* paragraph : — 

New York 88 April 18*9 

My Dear Sir, 

* + ** + ** 

I congratulate you that the appointments for New York are at an end — and now mark 
me — If our Collector is not a defaulter in four years, I'll swallow the Treasury if it was 
all coined in coppers. 

Most sincerely Yours 

C. C. Cambreleng. 1 
Hon b, « M. Van Bcren 

1 In the Van Buren Tapers. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN VAN BUREN. 269 

to the Hermitage in 1842 when most of the transactions of that and 
still earlier periods interesting to himself were brought into re- 
view in the course of our familiar and to me deeply interesting con- 
versations this matter was studiously avoided. He did not refer to 
it and I was too sensible of the extent of his disappointment and 
mortification to do so myself. 

At the hazard of being thought to descend to matters too unim- 
portant I recur to the day after my arrival at Washington to men- 
tion an incident which happened at that time. I do so because it 
goes to show how little either the abuse that had been heaped on 
both himself and Mrs. Jackson, to whom he was devotedly attached, 
or the rupture of personal and political friendships caused by the 
selection of his Cabinet, or the peculiar views of those by whom he 
was surrounded and by whom he was supposed to be unduly influ- 
enced, or all of them combined had weakened those just and hon- 
ourable sentiments with which his nature was thoroughly imbued 
and which never failed to show themselves when occasion offered. 
His defeated competitor removed from the White House to Com- 
modore Porter's place, on Meridian Hill, where he resided for some 
time. Up to the time of my arrival no one connected with the new 
administration, which had then been organized some six weeks, had 
called upon Mr. Adams. On examining into the cause of this omis- 
sion I found that it was considered due to the feelings of the Presi- 
dent which had been deeply wounded -by an attack on Mrs. Jackson 
that had appeared in the Washington Journal, a newspaper exten- 
sively regarded as under the influence of Mr. Adama Not believing 
that Gen. Jackson desired such a course to be pursued, and satisfied 
as to what my own should be, I apprised him of my intention to 
pay my respects to the ex-President, to which he instantly replied 
that he was glad to hear it He said that the treatment which he 
had too much reason to think he had received from Mr. Adams was 
of such a character that he did not feel himself at liberty to over- 
look it or he would long before have called upon him himself, 
but this was his personal matter and his friends would best consult 
his own wishes when they left its treatment to him alone* It was 
his desire, he said, that those associated with him in the Govern- 
ment should treat Mr. Adams with the respect that was due to him 
and he was happy to find that I was about to set them so good an 
example. The beneficial effects shed upon the new relations which 
had been established between the President and myself by this mag- 
nanimous course on his part may well be imagined. 

I made my call and was very cordially received by Mr. Adams, 
and I subsequently sent to him, from time to time, the despatches 
relating to unfinished negotiations in the results of which he ex- 
pressed particular interest, with such of the foreign newspapers as 



270 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

he desired to read. When I left him he said he would give me a 
hint that I might find useful which was that no secrets could be kept 
in the State Department, but that on the contrary the foreign 
Ministers were always certain in one way or another to get informa- 
tion of any negotiation going on there in which their Governments 
felt an interest. 

The first negotiation we instituted was one with the Sublime Porte 
for the establishment of commercial relations between Turkey and 
the United States, and the admission of American vessels to the 
navigation of the Black Sea. Apprehensive that other powers might 
interfere to our pre j udice I availed myself of Mr. Adams 9 hint and 
kept all the papers at my private rooms while the matter was in 
progress. The negotiation was entirely successful and I embraced 
an early opportunity to advise Mr. Adams of the proceeding and the 
result, both of which he highly commended. 

Encouraged by the General's remarks, I made a serious effort to 
re-establish friendly relations between him and Mr. Adams, and for 
a season with good prospect of success. Believing that the former 
would be entirely safe in assuming that Mr. Adams had no previous 
knowledge of the attack upon Mrs. Jackson, which had so much of- 
fended him, I urged that it was his business as the victor to make 
friendly advances and that moreover such was the course which the 
public would expect from his character. The injury of which he 
complained was one in regard to which he proved to be more impla- 
cable than was the case as to any to which he had been subjected. I 
finally prevailed upon him notwithstanding to promise me that he 
would on some fitting occasion speak to Mr. Adams and offer him his 
hand. The funeral of Doddridge, a member of Congress from Vir- 
ginia, which I thought Mr. Adams by his partiality for the late mem- 
ber, would attend struck me as likely to present an appropriate op- 
portunity. For some reason I was not able to be present myself but 
I made it my business to remind the General, before he started, of his 
engagement which he promised to fulfil. Calling afterwards to as- 
certain the result he told me, with obvious sincerity but with a smile 
which I confessed to be irrepressible when I heard his report, that he 
had approached Mr. Adams with a bona fide intention to offer him 
his hand, but that the " old gentleman," as he called him, " observing 
the movement, had assumed so ° pugrumous a look that he mas afraid 
he would strike him if he came nearer!" I had no difficulty in ex- 
plaining Mr. Adams' looks in a way to keep my proposition open 
for further consideration. Sometime afterwards the General, Major 
Donelson 1 and myself were sitting at the dinner table, after the ladies 
had retired, when one of us, perceiving a copy of a Congressional 

° MS. Ill, p. 85. 1 Andrew Jackson Donelson. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN VAN BURBN. 271 

document on the mentelpiece, took it up and found it to be a report 
made by Adams as Chairman of the Committee on Agriculture. As 
the weather was unpropitious for walking and they were neither of 
them wine-bibbers, I proposed that the Major should read the report 
tfhich he accordingly entered upon. To my amazement the brochure 
proved to be, under that cover, a labored, unjust and violent attack 
upon the President and his administration. For a while he listened 
with composure, occasionally interposing an expression of pity that 
the author should have nourished such violent antipathies at his 
time of life, but the charges became hotter and hotter and more and 
more unjust, his patience became exhausted and he said, with con- 
siderable vehemence, "Stop! Major, I will hear no more of it!" — 
and then, after a moment's pause, he turned to me, with a perfectly 
composed countenance, and added, "I hope, my dear Sir, that you 
are satisfied that it will be best to give up the project you have so 
much at heart." 

I sincerely regretted that I was compelled to abandon the idea of 
reconciliation between these gentlemen as is many personal qualities, 
they were formed to like each other and were warm friends during 
the General's Seminole difficulties — perhaps the most trying period of 
his public life. Whatever differences of opinion may have existed in 
regard to the propriety of his [Adams] appearance in the House of 
Representatives or to the course he pursued there, no liberal mind 
can fail to admire the spirit and indomitable firmness with which 
he maintained opinions which he, doubtless, conscientiously believed 
to be right altho' they were not always in harmony with those of 
the House. On more than one of these occasions he presented a 
full length portrait of " the old man eloquent " not often exhibited 
to that body. One of those stirring and unpremeditated outbursts 
will be long remembered. The occasion was a proposition to give 
the President power to enforce our claims for indemnity against 
France. Mr. Webster had wound up a violent attack in the Senate 
upon the proposition by saying that he would not consent to give 
the power asked for by President Jackson even if our quasi-enemy 
were thundering at our doors ! Mr. Adams, with kindled eyes and 
tremulous frame, closed an eloquent and forcible defense of the 
proposition with a hearty denunciation of the unpatriotic avowal 
which had been made in the other house and with the declaration, 
at the top of his piercing voice, that the man who was capable of utter- , 
ing such a sentiment had but one step more to take, and that was 
to meet the enemy at the door and to join him ! The excited feeling of 
the House broke forth, for the first time in either Hall of our na- 
tional Legislature, in a general clapping of hands. 

Mr. Adams' general personal demeanour was not prepossessing. 
He was on the contrary quite awkward, but he possessed one ac- 



272 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

complishment for which those who had only seen his grave and 
unamiable looking countenance of the morning and in public could 
scarcely have given him credit, — he was, in a small and agreeable 
party, one of the most entertaining table companions of his day. 
Whilst the Presidential question was pending in the House of Rep- 
resentatives, I was, one day, somewhat surprised to receive an invi- 
tation from George Sullivan, of Boston, then temporarily residing 
at Washington, to meet Mr. Adams and a small party at dinner. 
On mentioning the circumstances to my friend, Forsyth, 1 he told 
me that Sullivan was electioneering for Mr. Adams, in a quiet way, 
by thus bringing him under the observation of gentlemen who had 
imbibed personal prejudices against him. He then informed me 
of Mr. Adams's proficiency in that accomplishment to which I have 
just referred and of which I was not before aware. I was not able 
to avail myself of Mr. Sullivan's invitation, but, in after days, I 
remembered the circumstance, and, as frequently as I felt myself 
at liberty to do so, especially during my occupation of the White 
House, I invited Mr. Adams to small round-table dinners and ad- 
ways derived unqualified delight from his society and valuable in- 
formation from his conversation. 

But it is time to return from this long digression. Dismissing 
from my mind, as far as possible, the feelings of mortification and 
regret which had been caused by the great mistake the President 
had unwittingly committed in the appointment of Swartwout, I 
devoted myself to the preparation of instructions for the Ministers 
to be sent to England, France, Spain and the Netherlands, besides 
others of minor grades. 

The negotiation with England, in respect to the trade between 
the United States and her West India and North American Colo- 
nies, by the previous administration had not only been brought to 
an adverse close but had reached that result thro' much irritation 
on both sides. That with France to obtain indemnity for spolia- 
tions upon our commerce was in a condition apparently as hopeless 
after having been discussed ad nauseam under successive adminis- 
trations. With such difficult and grave matters in the front ground, 
a thorough review not only of the original transactions out of which 
existing questions had arisen but of the several steps which had 
been taken by the parties towards their adjustment became indis- 
pensable. By such a course only could I hope to raise points suffi- 
ciently new and fresh, either in fact or in the manner of presenting 
them, to revive interest that had become dormant or to induce 
them to re-open questions which our adversaries affected to regard 
as settled. 

1 John Forsyth of Georgia. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN VAN BUREN. 278 

My labours upon this branch of my official duties were thus 
spoken of in a contemporary publication : — 

Oar unadjusted foreign relations have been placed in a fair train of settle- 
ment The labor and devotion to the public service by which this has been 
accomplished are not much known beyond the circle of the State Department. 
The Secretary has been employed for weeks in succession, from morning till 
sundown, in preparing dispatches and fitting out' missions, Involving the most 
important interests of the Country. Frequently time has been snatched from 
the night to accomplish these works in time for the departure of the foreign 
Ministers. Since last March, four Ministers have been furnished with instruc- 
tions involving much labor and unweary research in the preparation. Two of 
these missions were particularly Important ; Mr. McLane, sent to England, and 
Air. Rives commissioned to France. In addition to these foreign missions to 
England, France, Spain, and Colombia, we learn that Mr. Preble, Minister to 
the Netherlands, has just arrived at Washington preparatory to his departure 
for that Country. This Mission involves interests of great Importance to the 
state of Maine. The settlement of the North-east Boundary question, which 
has been placed before the King of the Netherlands for his arbitration is now 
in a fair way of reaching a termination. In a short time a functionary will be 
sent out to Peru ; and others perhaps to the other South American governments. 
Before the commencement of the next session of Congress, the Secretary of 
State wiU have accomplished an immense quantity of public business, &c, Ac, Ac. 1 

The results of these labours were without reserve communicated 
to Congress and thus subjected to the scrutiny and animadversions 
of able and violent, not to say reckless opponents, anxious almost 
without precedent, for the overthrow of the administration and 
scarcely less sS to interpose obstacles in my path. 

I am not aware that the construction or matter of those voluminous 
instructions have -ever been unfavorably criticised with the single 
exception of that portion of one of them which was selected as a 
pretence for the rejection of my nomination as Minister to Eng- 
land. * * •* 

» Nile* Regiftter, Vol. 87, p. 172. 

'Three and a half pages of the MS8. have been cut out at this point. 

127483°— vol 2—20 18 



CHAPTEK XXn. 

• 

The Ministers to England and France were despatched as early 

as July and in the same public vessel. They arrived at the Courts 

to which they were respectively accredited early in September and 

entered upon the performance of their duties promptly and with 

a degree of energy, industry and perseverance which was expected 

from capable young men, covetous of fame and who felt that their 

success in undertakings of such magnitude, which had long baffled 

the efforts of numerous predecessors, could not fail to advance their 

progress towards the great goal — the Presidency — towards which 

their aspirations were as keen and perhaps as confidently directed 
as those of their most ambitious cotemporaries. They each brought 

to the accomplishment of the tasks assigned to them talents of a high 
order, with habits of industry not easily broken down and spirits 
not liable to be discouraged by slight obstacles. Speedy and com- 
plete success followed on the part of each in respect to the leading 
matters which had been committed to his care. Mr. McLane suc- 
ceeded in bringing to a satisfactory conclusion, within ten months 
from his presentation to the King, the negotiation in relation to 
the trade between the United States and the English West India 
and North American Colonies, a subject which had for many years 
afforded matter of contention between the two governments and 
had involved six separate negotiations. By that arrangement our 
trade was placed on a footing more favorable than any on which 
it had ever stood and our commerce and navigation in the Colonial 
ports of Great Britain became entitled to every privilege allowed 
to other nations. To the propriety of the settlement there was no 
opposition on the part of the Senate, or in Congress or from any 
other quarter. Mr. Hives' efforts were equally successful altho' the 
period of the conclusion of his negotiation was somewhat longer 
deferred in consequence of a change in the Government of France 
and other causes. 

It would be doing injustice to these gentlemen not to assign a 
large share of credit for the success of these negotiations to their 
personal exertions, but it would be doing at least equal injustice in 
another quarter not to notice the extent to which we were indebted 
for those results to the character of the new President, to the just 
and liberal principles which he had, unexpectedly to the Sovereigns 
of Europe, displayed in the developments of his foreign policy 
and not a little, perhaps, to a prudent foresight of the consequences 
274 



i 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN VAN BUREN. 275 

of persevering injustice in their dealings with a man of his tem- 
perament. The latter idea may be considered strengthened by the 
fact that indemnity was almost immediately obtained from the 
King of Denmark for claims of some twenty years standing and 
long continued intercession on our part without the slightest change 
of circumstances and by other instances of early success in our for- 
eign affairs. 

These prosperous negotiations so soon after its inauguration, 
doubtless added greatly to the strength and credit of the new ad- 
ministration, but its highest and most enduring honors were won 
b}- the wisdom and successful prosecution of its domestic policy. 
The leading points in that policy were: 

First, the removal of the Indians from the vicinity of the white 
population and their settlement beyond the Mississippi ; 

Second, to put a stop to the abuses of the powers of the Fed- 
eral Government in regard to internal improvements and to re- 
strict its action upon the ° subject to measures both useful and con- 
stitutional ; 

Third, to oppose as well the re-incorporation of the existing 
National Bank, as the establishment of any other equally unauthor- 
ized by the Federal Constitution, and to substitute, in lieu of the aid 
which had been derived from such institution in the management of 
Ihe fiscal affairs of the Government, an agency which whilst consist- 
ent with its authority would promise greater safety and greater 
success in that branch of the public service; and 

Fourth^ to arrest as far as possible the abuses that had crept into 
the legislation of Congress upon the subject of protecting duties and 
to restore it to the footing upon which it was placed at the commence- 
ment of the Government by imposing no duties beyond what was 
necessary for revenue and by assessing those in a way best adapted to 
encourage our own labor. 

These, tho' not the only, were the most prominent of the domestic 
objects to which President Jackson, from the first moments of his 
elevation to power, directed his attention and for the accomplishment 
of which he sedulously employed the powers with which the People 
had clothed him. He entered forthwith upon the execution of this 
programme, kept it constantly in view, and labored to the end for 
its completion with the energy and perseverance that formed so large 
a part of his nature. Few men had less reason than himself to com- 
plain that his official acts were not fairly appreciated by the great 
body of the People for whose benefit they were performed. Seldom 
if ever had he to contend, as is so often the case with public men, 

with that lurking suspicion, common and perhaps natural to the 

«■— — ■ I.. . . i ii ii. 

* MS. III, p. 05. 



276 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

public mind, that the most zealous and seemingly the most earnest 
efforts for the public good have their origin in motives of personal 
ambition or self interest. In the great transactions of his life the 
masses doubted not that his only end and aim was their welfare and 
happiness. Even those who dissented from the wisdom of his meas- 
ures were, with -limited exceptions, ever ready to admit that he was 
honest and meant well. 

The almost invariable consequence was a full share of public 
applause for the advantages he had the good fortune to secure to the 
Country in the course of his official career. Yet I have always 
thought and still think that the credit which has been awarded to 
him for the effective aid he rendered to his Country by his policy 
in respect to Indian Affairs and by the success with which it was 
executed has fallen far short of his deserts. 

Certainly no other subject was of greater importance than this, 
whether we regard the extent to which were involved in its treat- 
ment either the interests of humanity, our national character and the 
character of our political institutions, or the peace and prosperity of 
the Country. 

It is not requisite here to enter on the question how far our first 
encroachments upon the red men may be allowed to shelter them- 
selves under the plea of a struggle between Civilization and Bar- 
barism and to find excuse or palliation in the savage cruelties which 
characterized the resistance made by the latter to the advance of 
the former. By the events of the War of 1812 they had been re- 
duced from powerful tribes or nations to absolute and otherwise 
hopeless dependence upon the clemency and justice of the United 
States. At the close of Mr. Monroe's administration they num- 
bered some three hundred thousand souls, less than half of whom 
occupied reservations and other lands within our national bounda- 
ries, lying within nineteen different States and Territories. Altho' 
the most untiring efforts had been made to that end yet all past ex- 
perience had demonstrated not only that any exertions of the Gov- 
ernment to fit them for incorporation with the whites as citizens, 
thro 9 instruction and civilization would prove abortive, but that the 
course which had been pursued, that of buying their lands in detail 
and thus bringing them in closer contact with the white man, tended 
to hasten their demoralization and extinction. Under these adverse 
circumstances the thinking and truly philanthropic minds of our 
Country were directed to and their hopes for the future centered 
upon the plan for their removal and permanent establishment upon 
the most generous terms, on the public domain west of the Missis- 
sippi, and beyond the bounds of the States and Territories, for assist- 
ing them in forming a suitable Government, and for securing to 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN VAN BUBBN. 277 

them ample protection against both domestic feuds and encroach- 
ments from without. 

To the execution of this policy there were obstacles of the gravest 
kind ; not the least of these being that Beveral of the tribes claimed 
and exercised the absolute right of self-government within the 
bounds of the States in which they resided. They founded this 
claim upon the fact that the U. S. Government at early periods in 
it's existence had treated with them as with foreign powers and 
upon the character of the Treaties it had made with them. This 
claim was actually asserted and enforced only in the States of 
Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi, but if well founded it was of 
equal efficacy in all the States in which any of the tribes were 
situated. These States had all been admitted into the Union with 
defined boundaries, including the Indians, and the sovereign author- 
ity reserved to the States by the Federal Constitution over all within 
their respective borders had been recognised and guaranteed by 
the Federal Government; and, to increase the complications of the 
subject, the latter had also, in some instances, bound itself for valu- 
able considerations to extinguish the Indian titles within the state 
as soon as that could be done on reasonable terms. It is not neces- 
sary to enter upon an examination of the validity of the claim re- 
ferred to on behalf of the Indians, as neither the Federal Govern- 
ment, nor any Department of it entrusted with its powers ever con- 
templated a removal of the tribes against their will, or the employ- 
ment of force against them in any form, other than to subject them 
to the laws of the several States to the same extent to which other 
citizens were subjected to them. To do the latter if had solemnly 
bound itself and it was always quite apparent that no serious at- 
tempt could be made by it to sustain the Indians in their claims to 
the right of self government by the exertion of military power 
without producing a forcible collision between the General and 
State authorities which might lead to the destruction of the con- 
federacy and more surely to the extirpation of the Indians. 

Mr. Monroe, in his last annual Message, referred to the desirable- 
ness of their removal and pointed out, for their location, the terri- 
tory they now occupy, which was then and has ever since been re- 
garded as particularly well adapted to that purpose, and a little 
more than a month before the termination of his presidency he sent ' 
to Congress a special Message advancing many sound and philan- 
thropic arguments in favor of this policy, accompanied by a full 
report, from the Secretary of War, of the facts necessary to safe 
and judicious action by the Legislature. No farther steps were 
taken towards the execution of the proposed plan and circumstances 
unhappily soon occurred which threw increased difficulties in its 
way. The Georgia Indians were divided upon the general question 



278 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

and a large and influential portion of them decided to remain where 
they were, never to sell any more of their lands to the Government, 
and to live, for the future, under laws of their own enactment The 
representatives of that State, at the close of the same session at 
which Mr. Monroe's extra-message was sent in, charged, cm the 
floor of Congress, that this state of things had been brought about 
by the intrigues of the officers of the General Government and 
openly questioned the good faith of the administration in the mat- 
ter. These suspicions were doubtless increased and the excitement 
of the parties in respect to them unduly inflamed by the hostile 
feelings which had arisen between the Secretary of War (Mr. 
Calhoun) and his numerous friends in South Carolina, on the one 
part, and many of the promineiit and influential public men of 
Georgia, on the other; feelings which retained their bitterness for 
many years and extended their disturbing effects to other portions 
of the Confederacy. 

Such was the untoward condition of this great question when 
Congress adjourned and the Chief Magistracy of the Country de- 
volved on Mr. Adams. Of his desire to do what he thought best 
as well for the Indians as for the United States, and, making due 
allowances for his habitual distrust of the doctrine of State rights, 
for the States also, there can be no doubt; but there is every reason 
to believe that the policy of the plan of removal to the west of the 
Mississippi, of which I have spoken, was, at that time at least, un- 
favorably regarded by him. In the first three of his four annual 
messages the subject was not even referred to. The Secretary of 
War, Gov. Barbour, wrote ° a letter to the Chairman of the Com- 
mittee on Indian Affairs, 1 in answer to its application for aid and 
advice upon the general subject, in which he discoursed at length 
and eloquently upon the depressed condition to which the Indian 
Tribes had been reduced and the strength of their claims on our 
justice and generosity, and sketched a plan for their removal pur- 
suant to the suggestions made in Mr.* Monroe's message. But no 
one could read his letter without seeing that its entire drift was, 
not to promote such removal, but to throw obstacles in the way of 
anything like an effectual execution of that policy. It nowhere 
appears that that letter was nut sanctioned by Mr. Adams and his 
Cabinet, and, during the second year of that administration, the 
Country was seriously threatened, as should have been foreseen, 
with a hostile collision between the Federal and State authorities 
upon the subject. 

This mode of dealing with the matter, this ominous silence in 
respect to it on the part of the new President, who had himself 

• MS. Ill, p. 100. 

1 Feb. 3, 1826. Amer. State Papers, Indian Affairs, v. 2, No. 231, p. 646. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN VAN BURBN. 279 

occupied a position next to Mr. Monroe in the preceding adminis- 
tration, the severe denunciation by the Secretary of War of the 
only way in which the Indians could, in ail human probability, 
be induced to remove, when added to the encouragements to remain 
which Mr. Forsyth, who was too wise and too honest to deal in 
false surmises on so grave a subject, openly announced on the floor 
of Congress that they had received from the under officers of the 
late administration, induced, as it was natural to expect from their 
influence, large portions of the Indians, sufficiently numerous and 
powerful to defeat that policy, to decline all further overtures upon 
the subject. 

The result was a confederacy, openly formed between the power- 
ful tribes of Creeks and Cherokees, scattered over the states of 
Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi, to prevent the sale of any more 
lands by the members or officers of their respective tribes, and to 
establish themselves permanently within those States. - 

Other circumstances exasperated the feelings of the parties more 
immediately concerned to a height which threatened the peace of 
the Country. During the last year of Mr. Monroe's administration 
a treaty was made with the Creeks in Georgia, by which their title 
to all the lands they occupied within that State was extinguished. 
A portion of them believed to have been encouraged by the disposi- 
tions manifested toward them on the part of men in power, made 
various objections to that treaty and resisted its execution. To 
allay these dispositions a new treaty was made, during the first 
year of the government of Mr. Adams, by which the former treaty 
was declared to be annulled and some two or three hundred acres 
of the land released by it were left out of the new treaty. Georgia 
was of course greatly dissatisfied with this proceeding, not so much 
on account of the value of the land attempted to be given back to 
the Indians as because it defeated the policy of their removal from 
the State for which she was most solicitous. She insisted that she 
possessed a right to the soil and jurisdiction over the lands in the 
occupancy of the Indians, subject only to the power of Congress 
" to regulate commerce with the Indian tribes that she had a right 
to legislate for them in all cases not within that exception ; that all 
the right to them ever held by the Indians was legally extinguished 
by the first treaty; that that extinguishment enured to her benefit 
and that the Federal Government could not,« without her consent, an- 
nul that treaty after it had been fully ratified. The dissenting 
Indians contested all these points and claimed that Georgia had no 
jurisdiction over them and that they could not be affected by any 
acts of her legislation. 



280 AMERICAN HISTORICAL, ASSOCIATION. 

The legislature of Georgia passed a law in the form prescribed 
by her Constitution, directing a survey of all the lands to which 
the Indian title was extinguished by the first treaty. Learning that 
the surveyors under the direction of the Governor of the State had 
entered upon the execution of the duties assigned to them by the 
law referred to, the Little Prince and other dissenting Chiefs of 
the Creek Nation sent to the surveyor's camp a manifesto signed 
by them, ordered the surveyors " not to stretch a chain over their 
lands" and, upon the attempt of those functionaries to proceed,, 
caused them to be arrested, and communicated the facts to the 
President with a demand for the protection of the Federal Govern- 
ment against further encroachment of the part of the state of 
Georgia, 

In the year 1802 Congress passed an act to regulate trade and 
intercourse with the Indian tribes and to preserve peace on the 
frontiers. It provided that if any citizen or other person, resident 
in the United States, should make a settlement on lands belonging 
to any Indian tribe, or should attempt to survey such lands, he or 
they should forfeit one thousand dollars and be liable to impris- 
onment for a period not exceeding six months. It furnished several 
summary and very efficient means of enforcing the penalties for 
such acts; 1st by civil process to be executed when necessary by the 
Military power of the United States, in any state of the Union 
where the offender could be found, and his trial and punishment 
where found ; and 2d, by making it the duty of the military forces 
of the Federal Government to arrest all persons found on such 
Indian lands in violation of that act and to deliver them to the 
Civil authorities of the United States in any one of the three ad- 
joining states for trial and punishment. 

The facts submitted to the President by the Creek Chiefs pre- 
sented several very grave questions for his consideration in the first 
instance viz : 1st, whether the case was of the character contemplated 
by the act of 1802, and 2d, whether the claims set up by Georgia were 
valid and whether there was anything peculiar to the conditions of 
the Indians which exempted their lands from a liability to the au- 
thority of the States that could not be questioned in regard to lands 
owned by any other of her citizens. 

The President took it upon himself to dispose of both of these 
questions, decided then in favor of the Indians and informed Con- 
gress, in a message, that he had no doubt of his authority to use 
the military force in the case presented to him, but that he had 
abstained from doing so in the first instance because the surveyors 
ought not perhaps to be considered as solitary transgressors but 
as the agents of a sovereign state, who would be sustained, it had 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN VAN BURBN. 281 

been intimated, by her utmost power, and thus a violent collision 
might have occurred between the authorities of the two Govern- 
ments if he had immediately used the military resources entrusted 
to him. But he stated distinctly that, if the laws of the Union 
remained unaltered, and the state of Georgia persevered in her en- 
croachments upon the Indian territory, "a superadded obligation, 
even higher than that of human authority, would compel the Ex- 
ecutive of the United States to enforce the laws and fulfill the 
duties of the nation by all the force committed for that purpose 
to his charge." 

He submitted to Congress whether any further legislation was 
necessary to meet the emergency. None was suggested by him or 
thought proper or necessary by Congress, but the excitement pro- 
duced in that body by the Message was intense and the debates 
were unusually bitter but without any results in the way of legisla- 
tion. In the Senate the select Committee to whom the Message 
was referred, composed in part of supporters of the Administra- 
tion, unanimously reported a simple resolution, "that the Presi- 
dent be respectfully requested to continue his exertions to obtain 
from the Creek Indians a relinquishment of any claims to lands 
within the state of Georgia," which passed without a dissenting 
voice. But in the House, where the power of the Administration 
was far greater, the debate and proceedings were intemperate on 
both sides. The Committee appointed by the Speaker reported 
against Georgia on all points and concluded with resolutions to 
the effect that " it was expedient to obtain a cession of the Indian 
lands within the limits of Georgia," but that until a cession is pro- 
cured, the laws of the land as set forth in the Treaty of Wash- 
ington (the second treaty) ought to be maintained by all neces- 
sary constitutional and legal means. This report was made on the 
last day of the session, too late, of course, to be acted upon, but was 
ordered to be printed. 

The Administration relieved itself before the next session of 
Congress from all further embarrassments upon that particular 
branch of the subject, greatly complicated by the President's incon- 
siderate Message and the ground apparently taken by the House 
Committee in his support, by another °treaty, extinguishing the 
Indian title to the residue of the lands embraced in the first treaty 
and excluded from the second. Treaties providing for their removal 
to a limited extent were occasionally made with Indians willing to 
go, but nothing very material was effected. Those who were unwill- 
ing were, on the contrary, persevering in their efforts to induce their 
brethren to remain. The Cherokees, a powerful tribe, composed to 

* MS. Ill, p. 106. 



282 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

a considerable extent of whites, some of them educated and instructed 
in business affairs, taking the lead in carrying into effect the prin- 
ciples for which they contended, proceeded to the establishment of 
an Independent Government, framed as they insisted upon republi- 
can principles, within the bounds of Georgia, and, at page 198 of 
the 35th volume of Niles' Register, will be found a Message from 
the principal Chiefs to the General Council of the Nation, after the 
manner of the official communications from the President of the 
United States. In it they recommended to the Council, as the imme- 
diate representatives of the People, to send a memorial to Congress 
advising that body to redeem its obligations to Georgia in some other 
way than one based on the anticipation of further cessions of land 
from them. 

The conflicts thus occasioned between the state of Georgia and 
the Cherokees can easily be conceived. These continued down to the 
Presidential election in which Mr. Adams was defeated. In his last 
Message he seems to have viewed the matter in a far different light 
" When we have had," he says, " the rare good fortune of teaching 
them (the Indians) the arts of civilization and the doctrines of 
Christianity we have, unexpectedly found them forming in the midst 
of ourselves communities claiming to be independent of ours and 
rivals of sovereignty within the territories of the members of th* 
Union. This state of things requires that a remedy should be pro- 
vided which, while it shall do justice to those unfortunate children 
of nature, may secure to the members of our federation the rights 
of sovereignty and of soil," and for an outline of a project to that 
effect he recommends to the consideration of Congress the report 
of the Secretary of War. Turning to that document the reader 
will find that the Secretary, Peter B. Porter, a sensible, practical 
man, conversant with the Indian character and with Indian affairs, 
recommends substantially the policy contended for by those who 
supported the claims of Georgia, including the subjection of "all 
who remain to the municipal laws of the State in which they re- 
side." 

This Message of Mr. Adams was prepared shortly after the elec- 
tion in which his political fortunes had been wrecked and when 
whatever hopes or plans he subsequently cherished, he considered 
his public life as closed. He had, as we have seen strongly com- 
mitted himself to different views. His friends in the House of Rep- 
resentatives, where they constituted a majority, had sustained those 
views in an able and animated report, they had converted the sub- 
ject into a material for political agitation in the Presidential 
canvass and had found it, at least so far as respected him, unavail- 
ing. He now looked upon it with the eyes of a Statesman sincerely 
desirous to set himself right with the Country and with posterity 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN VAN BXJRBN. 283 

in regard to a matter which he could not but feel was one of the 
deepest import, and thus considering it, it was impossible that he 
should have failed to arrive at right conclusions. He directed his 
attention to the point of greatest prominence and of greatest hazard — 
the safety of the Union. There was a plausibility, founded exclu- 
sively on the loose character of our dealings with the Indians dur- 
ing the early period of our Government, in the pretension to politi- 
cal power set up by them and on their behalf. He found our sys- 
tem already an imperium in imperio, perhaps the most complicated 
in the World, and of course requiring the utmost care and fore- 
bearance in the administration of each, subjected in two of the 
States to the establishment within their bounds of a third Govern- 
ment claiming sovereign and independent political power, and, not 
only so, but that we were menaced with the immediate establishment 
of similar Governments in one or two other States, and exposed, if 
these succeeded, to the erection of others like them in a dozen more, 
and in all these cases one branch of the tripartite sovereignty was to 
be lodged in savages and half-breeds. The question presented to his 
mind by this state of facts was as to the probability not to say possi- 
bility of our existing national confederation being upheld under 
such a process — a confederation so essential not only to the welfare 
and happiness of the peoples of the United States but in a very great 
degree, to the interests of human liberty and the hopes of its con- 
siderate friends throughout the worldj and to the escape of the In- 
dians themselves from ultimate certain annihilation. Such was the 
question, stripped of immaterial issues and mystifying verbiage 
about which no sensible man, looking only to the good of the whole, 
could it would seem, hesitate for a moment. Mr. Adams was satisfied 
that the great hazards which environed it ought not to be encoun- 
tered for the sake of a claim so immature and defective as that of the 
Indians to self-government, and the language in which he admon- 
ished Congress in his last Message of the necessity of a remedy for 
the great evils with which the Country was threatened was that 
of an enlightened and patriotic statesman. 

Secretary Porter, in the report referred to by Mr. Adams said: 
" If the policy of colonization be a wise one, and of this I believe 
no one entertains a doubt, why not shape all our laws and treaties to 
the attainment of that object, and impart to them an efficiency that 
will be sure to effect it," and advised that all of the Indians who 
would not emigrate should be subjected to the municipal laws of the 
States. 

If the President and his Secretary of War had spoken thus at 
the commencement of his Administration and if he and his Cabinet 
had done all in their power to shape the laws and treaties of the 
Government to the promotion of the policy of Colonization, that great 



284 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

work would have been accomplished in their day. But we have seen 
that they did neither, and it was now too late to secure its success 
under their auspices. When the Constitution makers of France 
strove to reconcile the first Napoleon to an abridgment of his im- 
mediate power by proposing to confer upon him authority to direct 
what should be done after his decease he promptly refused the offer 
for the reason that " a dead man was nothing in respect to power 
whatever or whoever he may have been when alive. 9 ' The same may 
be said of a President whom a few short months will dispossess 
of his station in obedience to the decree of the People. The sceptre 
had departed from Mr. Adams when he promulgated the words 
which I have quoted, the hopes of the supporters of his administra- 
tion for restoration to power were then already turned to another 
and their decision to the course they would take upon a question, in 
respect to which the public mind was so liable to be excited, was for 
partizan reasons, held in abeyance. 

Substantially in the state which I have described, these matters 
stood until Gen. Jackson, then President elect, became President in 
fact; a state most unpromising for the colonization policy. He 
forthwith devoted his utmost efforts to the remedy of this great 
public evil and no man ever entered upon the execution of an of- 
ficial duty with purer motives, firmer purpose or better qualifications 
for its performance. It seemed a task providentially reserved for 
one so admirably fitted for it by the elements of his character and 
by his past experience. 

Except perhaps the single subject of slavery there could not have 
been one more liable to seizure and appropriation to their own 
purposes by political and partizan agitators than that now under our 
consideration. As the Christian religion had been the greatest 
agent of civilization throughout the world, the Government could 
not, in attempting to extend its blessings to the Indians, omit to 
invoke the co-operation of the Christian ministry. Clerical mis- 
sionaries were accordingly sent among them and the Country from 
time to time heard of the great success which had attended their 
labours of love. Clergymen are not over liberal as partners in 
power over a subject to the management of which their agency 
is admitted and they soon assumed the principal guardianship of 
the Indians, holding themselves to protect them against oppression 
whether it might proceed from individuals or from the Government 
and authorized to weigh the measures of the latter and to condemn 
them if they considered them worthy of censure. Accountability 
to what is sometimes called the religious community — a class 
among us easily instigated to meddle in public affairs and seldom 
free, on such occasions, from a uniform political bias, had thus 

• MS. Ill, p. 110. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN VAN BUREN. 285 

become one of the responsibilities under which the President acted. 
The Society of Friends was another large interest which claimed 
the right to speak and seldom failed to make itself heard, in re- 
spect to every movement of the Government that related to the 
Indians and they too entertained apprehensions in regard to the 
<-ourse to be expected from the "unbridled democracy" of which 
President Jackson, was in their estimation, the favored leader. 

It had become manifest that the removal of the Indians could not 
be brought about by any measures of which the extension of the 
laws of the State, with the approbation of the Federal Govern- 
ment, over those who remained, after all proper means had been 
exhausted to provide for their welfare in a suitable and safe new 
home, did not form a part. That such measures would be disap- 
proved of by the powerful classes of whom I have spoken was posi- 
tively certain, and it had therefore become indispensable to their 
success that their execution should devolve upon a man who was 
willing, in the performance of his duties, to encounter that opposi- 
tion — a qualification which had not yet been found in any President 
after the necessity for such measures had occurred. It was scarcely 
less necessary that he should be one whom experience had made 
thoroughly conversant with the Indian character, not only knowing 
them but being also well known by them as one who would do what 
be promised, whether it was an act of liberality or of severity and 
as one who, tho' not disposed to withhold from them any favors 
that would promote their welfare and that could be extended con- 
sistently with the safety of our institutions, would not fail, at the 
.same time, to exert all the means lawfully within his reach to accom- 
plish his object. 

Gen. Jackson entered upon the consideration of this important 
subject at the earliest practicable moment and strove for the accom- 
plishment of his policy as long as there was reason to hope for suc- 
cess, regardless of obstacles which would have discouraged less san- 
guine minds. For the first time, I believe, since the establishment of 
the Government, the subject of Indian affairs was specifically noticed 
in the Inaugural Address. As he [the President] was emphatically 
a practical man and felt that the matter must constitute one of the 
leading concerns of his administration he thought the sooner public 
attention was directed to it the better. Within three weeks after his 
Inauguration having occasion to send a " talk " to the Creeks, in rela- 
tion to the murder by some of their people of a white man. he intro- 
duced to their consideration the subject of removal. He told them 
that he had been made President and that he now addressed them as 
their father and friend. He reminded them that in his talk to them 
many years before he had spoken of the Country west of the Missis- 
sippi as one where alone they could be preserved as a great nation 



286 AMEBICAST HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

and he now advised them to go there. He assured them, however* 
that if they chose to remain in Alabama, and to come under the laws 
of that State, they might rely on his protection, that their lands 
should be set off to them and their families in fee, and that they should 
be secured in all the rights and privileges enjoyed by the white peo- 
ple ; that his whole course towards them should be stamped with the 
frankness and sincerity by which his dealings with the tribes had 
always been distinguished and which a full experience had satisfied 
him tf as the most likely to be successful in the end. He next caused 
, the Indians in Georgia and Alabama to be officially informed that the 
project of establishing independent Governments within the States 
in which they resided would not be countenanced by the Executive. 
This notice was, he said, due to them, and would, he hoped, have 
the effect to nip in the bud the movement in that direction which 
commenced in Mississippi, and to discourage such undertakings, if 
they were contemplated, in the other States having Indians within 
their bounds. 

When Congress met he made to that body the most unreserved 
communication of his views upon the whole subject in his Annual 
Message. He placed the claims of the Indians upon our considera- 
tion and favor on the grounds he thought they deserved to occupy, 
and avowed his readiness to promote all constitutional and practi- 
cable measures for their gratification. He then gave his reasons for 
holding that their pretensions in respect to the organization of sep- 
arate governments were unfounded, demonstrated their impracti- 
cability, foreshadowed the ruinous results to our confederation that 
would inevitably result from any attempt to establish such a right 
in them by the power of the Federal Government, and concluded his 
explanations with the following equally specific recommenda- 
tions : — * 

*The MS. here directs the inclusion of the following: As a means of effecting this 
end, I suggest, for your consideration, the propriety of setting apart an ample district 
West of the Mississippi, and without the limits of any State or Territory, now formed, 
to be guaranteed to the Indian tribes, as long as they shall occupy it ; each tribe having 
a distinct control over the portion designated for its use. There they may be secured 
In the enjoyment of governments of their own choice, subject to no other control from 
the United States than such as may be necessary to preserve peace on the frontier, and 
between the several tribes. There the benevolent may endeavor to teach them the arts 
of civilisation ; and by promoting union and harmony among them, to raise up an Inter- 
esting commonwealth, destined to perpetuate the race, and to attest the humanity and 
justice of this Government. 

This emigration should be voluntary : for it would be as cruel as unjust to compel 
the aborlginees to abandon the graves of their fathers, and seek a home in a distant 
land. But they should be distinctly informed that, if they remain within the limits of 
the States, they mast be subject to their laws. In return for their obedience, as indi- 
viduals, they will, without doubt, be protected in the enjoyment of those possessions 
which they have improved by their Industry. But it seems to me visionary to suppose 
that, in this state of things, claims can be allowed on tracts of country on which they 
have neither dwelt nor made improvements, merely because they have seen them from 
the mountain, or passed them in the chase. Submitting to the laws of the States, and 
receiving, like other cltlsens, protection In their persons and property, they will, ore 
long, become merged in the mass of our population. — Jackson's 1st Annual Message. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OP MARTIN VAN BUREN. 287 

With the jnanly and unequivocal recantation by his predecessor 
of the erroneous views he had at first entertained, and his virtual 
adoption of the recommendation of his Secretary of War in favor 
of the very measure Gen. Jackson now proposed, before him, and 
considering that the political party from which alone he had any 
reason to apprehend opposition to his policy had not only brought 
the previous Administration into being but was yet fresh from a 
great battle for its continuance in power, it is not surprising that 
a man of Jackson's training, unversed in the ways of politicians, 
should have counted upon a general concurrence in the praiseworthy 
views he had disclosed upon a subject so interesting to humanity 
and so important to the public interest. But he was soon furnished 
with ample reasons to convince him that any hopes and anticipa- 
tions of that character were mere delusions. That party knew, 
as well as any future event of that nature could be known, of the 
great contest with him on the Bank question which impended, and 
eagerly seized the tempting opportunity presented by the Indian 
difficulties to cripple his Administration in advance. Without sug- 
gesting anything of their state in respect to the other branch of 
the divine injunction, those partisans were certainly not as harm- 
less as doves, and knowing full well that we had not as yet had no 
President possessed of sufficient < moral courage to deal with that 
subject in the way in which alone it could be wisely treated they 
were slow to believe that this unfledged Statesman would be able 
to do so successfully, and they determined not to forego the ad- 
vantages it seemed to offer. 

The first step was the passage of a law clothing the Executive with 
adequate powers if the Indians consented to remove and the next 
to obtain their consent to its execution. Without success in the 
latter openly and fairly obtained, Gen. Jackson did not desire it in 
the general object however important he considered it to the public 
welfare. 

The Committees on Indian Affairs in both Houses reported a 
Bill, short, simple and comprehensive and then followed the death 
struggle for its passage, for such, especially in the House of Bepre- 
sentatives, it emphatically was. The Bill authorized the President 
to cause so much of the territory of the United States, west of the 
Mississippi, as he might judge necessary to be divided into a suit- 
able number of Districts for the reception of such tribes or nations 
of Indians as might choose to exchange the lands on which they 
then resided and to remove there; to exchange such districts with 
any tribe or nation, then residing within the limits of any State or 
Territory, with which the United States had existing treaties, and 
where the lands were owned by the United States or where the latter 



288 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

were bound to the States to extinguish the Indian title; to make 
compensation to the Indians for their improvements, and to pro- 
vide all necessary aid for their removal and for their support for 
one year afterwards, with suitable clauses securing the guarantee 
and protection of the United States as recommended by the Presi- 
dent in his Message. 

When this Bill was taken up in the Senate, the body in which the 
subject was first acted upon, Mr. [Theodore] Frelinghuysen, of New 
Jersey, moved to add to it the following section : 

Sec. 9. That until the said tribes or nations shall choose to remove, as by 
this act is contemplated, they shall be protected in their present possessions, and 
in the enjoyment of all their rights of territory and government, as heretofore 
exercised and enjoyed, from all interruptions and encroachments. 

The clause attempted to mark the nature and extent of the right 
of self-government proposed to be reserved to the Indians by assum- 
ing as a fact what was denied that it was a right they had " there- 
tofore exercised and enjoyed." But the design in the use of the 
phraseology employed was to make the proposition appear less rank 
than it would if the right intended to be reserved was simply and 
plainly set forth in the additional section. It was meant, as fully 
appears from the debate, to test the principle as to the right of the 
Indians to maintain independent political Governments within the 
States in which they resided, under the belief that the movement 
would involve the fate of the colonization policy and, if successful, 
defeat it, as no one would for a moment believe that the Indians 
would remove as long as the power of Congress stood pledged to sup- 
port them in the exercise of that degree of sovereignty. 

The Whig party (as the opposition was then called) rallied with 
perfect unanimity in favor of Mr. Frelinghuysen's amendment and 
against the Bill. A more persevering opposition to a public measure 
had scarcely ever been made. Few men would now venture to 
deny that it was a factious opposition waged to promote the in- 
terests of party at the expence of the highest interests of the 
Country, upon grounds which were not tenable and for avowed pur- 
poses which were not practicable, — or, if practicable, could only 
become so thro* the agency of the U. S. Army and the probable de- 
struction of the Confederacy. The subject was discussed with brief 
intermission, from the 9th to the 26th April, when the additional 
section, offered by Frelinghuysen, was rejected, every whig Sen- 
ator voting in favor of it as did also the only Jackson Senator from 
Pennsylvania, and the Bill passed the Senate by a small majority 
that Senator finally voting in its favor. The opposition did not 
expect to defeat it in the Senate. The debate and proceedings in 
that body having been principally designed for the effect they 

* MS. Ill, p. 115. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN VATT BTJBBN. 989 

might produce on the public mind and, through that source, on the 
popular branch of Congress. It was to the House of Representa- 
tives that they looked as the theatre of triumph and the result 
shewed that the y had very strong grounds for the confidence they 
entertained of such a result. The majority of what were called 
Jackson men in that body was sixty five, but it was in a great 
degree composed of gentlemen who had shortly before professed 
different politics from the mass of his supporters and thus were not 
only new in the republican fellowship, but many of them not over 
well instructed or very deeply imbued in the principles of the party 
they had joined. This class of the General's friends were pecul- 
iarly liable to be influenced by the dread of giving offence to 
the Quakers and to the religious communities, and were prone 
to communicate their apprehensions to their new associates. The 
influence of this feeling was strikingly exhibited in the vote of the 
delegation from Pennsylvania which, tho' more exposed than others 
to a Quaker panic, was in other respects more relied upon on ac- 
count of the very general and very strong attachment of her People 
to General Jackson who, in a great degree, staked the success of his 
administration upon this measure, Of her twenty six members (of 
whom all but one were elected as Jackson men) only six voted for 
the Bill, three of those subsequently voted against the previous 
question because it would cut off an amendment, which went to 
defeat the measure in a round about way, two of them were with 
difficulty brought to the final vote, and such men as [James] 
Buchanan' and [George G.] Leiper, the latter representing a Quaker 
district, felt themselves constrained to shoot the pit. The same in* 
fluences produced similar effects upon the representatives of other 
States and the result was that after a debate as protracted and ex- 
cited as any that had ever before taken place in that body, and not- 
withstanding the large nominal preponderance in favor of the Ad- 
ministration, the measure recommended by the President was carried 
in the House by a majority of only four on a preliminary vote and of 
five on its final passage. 1 

Congress had performed its duty by the enactment of the law, and 
the Constitution as well as his oath of office imposed upon the Pres- 
ident the obligation to see to its execution. Another opportunity was 
thus presented to the opponents of his Administration to shew by 
their actions that they placed a higher value upon the interests of 
the Country and the welfare of the Indians than upon party con- 
quests. But unfortunately for those, interests and for their own 
highest good, altho' defeated in respect. to the passage of the Bill, 

1 An act to provide for an exchange of lands with the Indians • • • and their 
femoral wttt'oi the ri w MtertMippi. Approve*, -Ma? 28, 1880. • 

127483°— vol 2—20 19 



290 AMERICA* HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

they were too much encouraged by their extraordinary success in 
making converts in the House of Representatives to heed such con- 
siderations. They foresaw as they thought the political advantages 
of the struggle which had been fomented by their unfounded pre* 
tension to culminate in their triumph at the ensning Presidential 
election, all unconscious of the utter overthrow of their hopes which 
was gathering strength in the sober second thoughts of the People. 
They set every engine in motion to throw obstructions in the way of 
the President, and received a full measure of cooperation from their 
usual auxiliaries in great crises, the Press, the Courts of law and, 
last tho' far from least in power and influence, the Church. 

If the question had been one of power simply the President 
would have soon settled it, but he could not act effectively, nor did 
he desire to do so, without the consent of the Indians and he was 
both too wise and too just to take any steps to obtain that consent 
which the good sense and good feeling of the Country would not 
finally approve. Those who understood his diameter soon became 
satisfied of this, but those who did not hoped to drive him to acts 
of violence which would destroy his popularity. Hence they blamed 
every thing he did, and responded to every act of resistance on the 
part of the Indians and by such measures of co-operation as were 
suited to the habits of civilized life. 

The Cherokees refused to meet the President in Council to nego- 
tiate upon the subject of their lands, and answered his invitation by 
a legislative act denouncing the penalty of death against any one 
of their nation who should attempt to sell their lands without the 
assent of the National Council. In their Memorial to Congress, 
rising in their pretensions, from the encouragement they received, 
they claimed to be a Sovereign State independent as well of the 
Federal Government as of Georgia, and as such one of their Chiefs 
undertook to stop the mail on its passage over their lands and re- 
sisted the exercise of criminal jurisdiction by that State [Georgia] 
within their bounds. 

Those portions of the Press favoring the pretensions of the In- 
dians to the right of self-govenment were at the same time filled 
with encomiastic accounts of the prudence of the Cherokees and of 
their capacity for the discharge of its duties and denunciations of 
the conduct of Georgia and of the President 

Chief Justice Marshall issued a Citation to the State of Georgia 
to appear before the Supreme Court, pursuant to a Writ of Error, 
to shew cause why a judgment of a Superior Court of that State 
against an individual for murder committed within the bounds of 
that State, but on Cherokee territory, should not be corrected and 
speedy justice done to the parties. The citation was communicated 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OP MABTIN VAN BUBEN. 291 

to the Legislature by the Governor of Georgia with a declaration 
that orders from the Supreme Court interfering with the decisions 
of their State courts in such a matter, would so far as related to the 
Executive Department, be disregarded and any attempt to enforce 
them resisted with all the force the laws had placed at his command. 
Thus were the pacific relations between the Federal Government 
and one of the States of the Confederacy a second time endangered 
by high functionaries of the former, but the danger was avoided 
now, as at the first, by the firmness of the State authorities and an 
abandonment of their avowed intentions on the part of the former. 

Nothing further was done with the Writ of Error, but proceed- 
ings to the same end were instituted in a different form. A Bill was 
filed by Mr. Wirt, in the same Court, in favor of "The Cherokee 
Nation against the State of Georgia," praying an injunction to re- 
strain that State from executing the laws of the State within the 
Cherokee territory. 

Georgia refused to appear to the Summons or to have anything 
to do with the proceedings. The hearing was therefore ex parte, 
but the application was notwithstanding argued at great length 
and, as the newspapers said, with great ability, by Messers. Wirt 
and Sergeant, of course for the Cherokees. The Suit was brought 
by them, claiming to be a " Foreign State" under the article of th6 
Federal Constitution, defining the extent of the judicial power of 
the Federal Government. The Supreme Court held, unanimously, 
that their claim to be so regarded was manifestly untenable. 1 Thus 
ruling, there was, of course, an end of the proceeding. As the plain- 
tiffs had no right to appear in that Court in the character they had 
assumed for the purpose, they had no right to ask its opinion on 
any point in the case they had presented. But Chief Justice Mar- 
shall, who delivered the opinion of a majority of the Court, whilst 
concurring with the Whole Bench that the Plaintiffs had no right 
to bring the suit, went on notwithstanding, as he did in the famous 
case of Marbury and Madison, to deliver an extra-judicial opinion, 
upon one of the material points presented by the case, and declared 
that u so much of the argument of counsel as was intended to prove 
the character of the Cherokees as a State, as a distinct political 
Society, separated from others, capable of managing their own 
affairs, and governing itself % has, in the opinion of a majority of 
the Judges, been completely successful." He intimated also that 
u the mere question of right to their lands might perhaps be decided 
by the Court in a proper case with proper parties ", but as the Bill 
asked them to do more Ac they could not interfere. Not content 

* Cherokee Nation v. Georgia, Peter*, 6, 1-80. 



292 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

with this he was pleased to add that " if it was ° true that wrongs 
had been inflicted on the Cherokee nation, and that still greater 
were to be apprehended, that was not the tribunal to redress the 
past or to prevent the future." 

Justices Baldwin and Johnson 1 delivered separate opinions, con* 
curring in the only point the Court was competent to decide, but dis- 
senting from all that was said beyond, Mr. Peters, the Reporter, 
decided to publish the case immediately., separately from the volume 
in which it would appear in the ordinary course, and to give (to use 
his own .language) "Mr. WirVs great argument in behalf of the 
Cherokee*, which had been taken down by stenographers employed 
for the purpose/ " 

Is it possible for an intelligent mind to doubt that the design of 
these extraordinary proceedings, as well the extra-judicial decision 
of the Court as the electioneering pamphlet gotten up by its Re- 
porter, was the same, or that that design was to operate upon the 
public mind adversely to Georgia and to the President? 

The Cherokees, as they well might do, regarded the opinion of the 
Court, on the great point in controversy between them and Georgia, 
as expressed in their favor, and contended that the President was 
bound by it and said so in an Address by their Chiefs and Head Men 
to the People of the United States, which, with Mr. Peters' Report, 
was published and scattered over the whole Country. 

To sustain this suit it was necessary that two points, independent 
of its merits, should be decided in their favor; 1st, that the Chero- 
kees were a foreign State, in the sense of the Constitution, and, 2nd, 
that the Supreme Court was competent so far to exercise the political 
power as to enjoin the action of a State Government in the highest 
exercise of its sovereignty. It required an extraordinary stretch of 
charity to believe that their learned and intelligent counsel could 
have entertained the slightest confidence in the tenability of either 
position. The fact that the majority of a Court composed of their 
political friends, honorable men but cherishing sympathies in favor 
of the cause in which the great abilities of the counsel were em- 
ployed as strong as their own, rejected both propositions without 
hesitation, makes overwhelmingly against the good faith in which 
the proceedings were instituted. They could not therefore complain 
that their political opponents, as well as the cool judgment of many 
whp were not politicians, regarded the whole proceedings as ficti- 
tious, not to say factious, and designed for political effect; and it 
was a source of deepest mortification that those who moved in it had, 
\p\ the course of its prosecution, succeeded in obtaining the . indi- 
rect countenance and aid of the Court thro' its expression, or, to 



*> <* 



MS. Ill, p. 120. * Henry Baldwin and William Johnson. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN VAN BUREN. 298 

speak more correctly, thro 5 the expression by a majority of its mem- 
bers of an extra-judicial and partizan opinion, than which the dif- 
fusion of Peters 9 report and Wirt's eloquent speech in favor of the 
"poor Cherokees" (altho' objectionable as attempts to prostitute 
judicial proceedings to electioneering purposes,) was far less painful. 
But the political aid derived from impressions systematically 
made on the religious community by the continued and deceptive agi- 
tation of this matter was still greater. Missionaries had been sent 
into the Cherokee Country, during the Administration of Mr. Adams, 
by the American Board of Foreign Missions, who were to some 
extent regarded as Agents of the Federal Government, and, as 
such, exempted from the laws of Georgia forbidding white men 
from residing among the Cherokees without a license from the 
Governor. These men, partaking of the feelings which actuated 
their friends at home, and not indisposed to acquire the notoriety 
of political martyrdom in a political cause, busied themselves in the 
question of removal. The Governor of Georgia asked for their 
withdrawal and they were disavowed by the Federal Government 
as persons in its service, but they nevertheless remained at their 
posts. They were informed of the law and requested to depart, 
and, on their refusing to do so, were arrested. Declining all offers 
of accommodation which involved their leaving the Cherokee ter- 
ritory, they were subjected to the operation of the law under which 
they were convicted and imprisoned. It is scarcely possible now, 
when the delusion has passed a*way, and when all see that the 
course adopted was the wisest and best for the Indians, to realize 
the extent to which many of our religious societies were agitated 
and disturbed by the imprisonment of those missionaries, and there ' 
was no doubt that not less than eight or ten thousand voters, in 
the state of New York alone, were controlled at the succeeding Pres- 
idential election in the bestowal of their suffrages by that single 
consideration. Gen. Jackson and myself were then candidates for 
the offices of President and Vice-President and I cannot perhaps 
give a more striking illustration of the force of that excitement 
than by relating an occurrence which fell under my observation. 
Passing, previous to the election, thro' the western part of our 
state, where the pro-Cherokee feeling had been lashed to a great 
height, I stopped for a night at the residence of a near and very 
dear relative of my own — a lady of remarkable intelligence and 
strength of character, and deeply imbued with religious feeling. 
After I had retired to my room she entered it and after a kind 
introduction and welcome soon proceeded to a spirited denuncia- 
tion of our proceedings (for she associated me with the President) 
towards the Cherokees in general and the Missionaries in particu- 



294 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

lar, with the utmost severity consistent with what was due to her 
sex and to her respect for myself, neither of which was she capable 
of overlooking. Well aware of the tenacious grasp with which 
her opinions, in matters of conscience, were held — a feature of 
her character doubtless, in some degree, derived from the Huge- 
notish blood which flowed in her veins, — and thinking the hour 
unsuitable for the argument, I made but little answer to her charges, 
and, on leaving the room, she said, yet holding the door in hand, 
u Uncle! I must say to you that it is my earnest wish that you 
may lose the election, as I believe that such a result ought to fol- 
low such acts!" 

When such feelings were in this way produced on such a mind 
towards a relative for whose welfare she cherished a solicitude as 
ardent* and as sincere as she did for any other human being, her 
parents having been both, long before, removed from this world and 
she having neither brother nor sister, it is not difficult to imagine 
how strong must have been the influence of this subject in other cases. 

Many other incidents of this great struggle, not less interesting 
than those of which I have spoken, crowd upon my recollection, but 
I do not feel at liberty to extend the space already appropriated to 
the subject. It was my intention, in particular, to have set forth 
more fully than I have yet done the admirable bearing and sound 
statesmanship displayed by Gen. Jackson throughout this period, his 
sincere and persevering efforts to bring the Cherokees into council, 
his meetings with the Chickasaw and Choctaw tribes, many of whom 
had fought by his side in the war of 1812, his renewal to them and to 
the Creeks of the advice he had given to the latter on the very point 
under consideration, immediately after the disastrous battle of the 
Horse Shoe, the restoration of the confidence of the tribes in the sin- 
cerity of his friendship for them, his success in prevailing upon them 
to conform to the policy of the Government by removing to the West, 
and his influence upon the excited Georgians inducing them to ex- 
hibit a mildness and a conciliatory spirit in their acts which became 
matter of comment and surprise to their and his opponents. But I 
must forego this design. 

The day of election came on, not only under the unfavorable 
circumstances I have described, but subject to the adverse and im- 
pure influences of the Bank question and the excitement produced 
by the President's veto. Gen. Jackson was notwithstanding re- 
elected by an immense majority and the Councils of the nation so far 
as their members could, under the Constitution, be reached by that 
election, were replenished to overflowing with sincere friends to his 
administration. The voice of the People produced what reason, 
justice, and policy had demanded in vain. Defense, encouragement 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MABTIK VAJT BUREN. 995 

and support of the Cherokees in their political pretensions were no 
longer insisted on by the anti-Jackson party. The idea of small 
Indian sovereignties swayed by savage customs and councils, within 
the borders of certain states of oar confederacy, was exploded. The 
laws of the States according to the recommendation of Secretary 
Porter, were shaped without hindrance, to the promotion of the 
only rational policy— that of removing the Indians beyond the reach 
of the bad influences inevitable from association and contention with 
the white men. ° The President, forgetting or overlooking the ob- 
stacles that had been thrown in his way, pursued his policy with his 
Accustomed energy and perseverance, and his labors were ultimately 
crowned with complete success. I say his labowrs for that great work 
was emphatically the fruit of his own exertions. It was his judg- 
ment, his experience, his indomitable vigour and unresting activity 
that secured success. There was no measure, in the whole course of 
his administration of which he was more exclusively the author than 
this. His Secretary of War assisted to the extent of his power, he 
advised freely with me on all occasions and gave such weight to my 
advice, relating chiefly to the manner of doing what he thought 
ought to be done, as he thought it deserved, which was never less 
but frequently more than it was really entitled to, but his were the 
mind, hand and spirit that controlled throughout 

Gen. Jackson's success excited as it deserved the admiration and 
applause of the wise and the good. He has received a large share of 
the gratitude and praise of the American People for thq acts of 
his life, both in the military and civil service of his Country, but, 
in my opinion, there were none better entitled to such rewards than 
those which affected the important subject of which I have spoken. 
I may have considered it in more detail and at greater length than 
was necessary, but I have been influenced by views which I thought 
entitled to much force. The fact that what was done in this matter 
was more exclusively his own doing than could be said of any other 
measure of his administration and therefore furnishes a most 
reliable illustration of his character, and the inadequacy of the 
credit which these services have as yet received have been already 
noticed. But there are higher motives for a thorough review of the 
whole subject. Unlike histories of many great questions which agi- 
tated the public mind in their day, the account I have here given 
of the action of the Government and of political parties relates 
to one which will, in all probability endure, in many important 
general features, as long as the Government itself and which must 
in all that time occupy and interest the minds and feelings of our 
peoplq; to one, moreover, in respect to which we are, as a nation 

* MS. Ill, p. 126. 



296 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

responsible, in foro conscientiae, to the opinions of the greet family 
of nations, as it involves the course we have pursued and shall pursue 
towards a people comparatively weak, upon whom we were perhaps 
in the beginning unjustifiable aggressors but of whom, in the progress 
of time and events, we have become the guardians and, as we hope, 
the benefactors. It has appeared to me that those to whose care 
the character and interests of the United States as connected with 
this subject, may hereafter be committed, cannot fail to be deeply 
interested in if not materially benefitted by a true account of the 
views, motives and transactions of their predecessors in regard to 
it on an occasion so critical as was that which I have reviewed. 



CHAPTER XXIII. 

The next and scarcely less important subject to which President 
Jackson gave his attention was that of internal improvements 
under the authority of the Federal Government. Questions in 
regard to it had constituted the staple of a very large proportion 
of the debates in Congress for many years before his accession to 
the Presidency; indeed, this had been the case, with brief inter* 
missions, since the termination of the War of 1812. A race of 
younger Statesmen, as has been before intimated, full of talents, 
commendably ambitious to secure the confidence and not indis- 
posed to enjoy the favors of the People, bad assigned to it a prom- 
inent position among the blessings with which they promised to 
improve and adorn the Country. 

Mr. Gallatin, 1 in 1808, in obedience to a resolution of the Senate, 
at the preceding session, offered by Mr. Worthington, 8 of Ohio, 
made an elaborate report embracing the outlines of a general sys- 
tem of .internal improvements, and the subject was again referred 
to by Mr. Jefferson in his next and last message. Having, in a 
previous message, declared the necessity of an addition to the 
enumerated powers of Congress to authorize such works, he now 
spoke of the disposition of a surplus revenue, the accumulation 
of which he deemed probable, and asked whether it should be suf- 
fered to remain unproductive in our vaults, be reduced, or be 
" appropriated to the improvements of roads, canals, rivers, educa- 
tion and other great foundations of prosperity and union under 
the powers we may already possess, or such amendments of the 
Constitution as might be approved by the States." Mr. Calhoun 
is entitled to the credit, be that what it may, of having been the 
first to bring the vexed question of Constitutional power before 
Congress for its immediate decision. A glance at the then state 
of the question in respect to the power of Congress over the sub- 
ject will here be neither out of place nor without interest. 

Alexander Hamilton, if not the sole author of the principle of 
implied powers, stood at the head of those whose doctrines in regard 
to the construction of the Constitution were considered the most 
latitudinarian. His opinion in favor of the Bank of the United 
States and his report on manufactures were the ample fountains 
from which most if not all of these heresies proceeded. Without 
their aid he regarded the Constitution as utterly impracticable and 

* Albert Gallatin* * Thomas Worthington. 

297 



298 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

he therefore stretched his fertile imagination to the utmost to render 
that principle as efficient as possible. Yet he disclaimed in express 
terms powers in Congress to construct roads and canals, within the 
States, with or without their consent. If there was ever room for 
doubt upon that point, which there could not well be after his re- 
port on manufactures, it has been fully cleared up by recent devel- 
opments. By that report he carried the money power of the Gov- 
ernment to an extent which did not admit of enlargement, and defined 
it in terms so felicitously as to satisfy the wildest theorist. Speaking 
of other powers, the exercise of which would be useful, he gave a 
marked prominence to that we are considering : " Symptoms of atten- 
tion to the improvement of inland navigation which had," he said, 
" lately appeared in some quarters must fill with pleasure any heart 
wanned with a true zeal for the prosperity of the Country. These 
examples, it is to be hoped, will stimulate the exertions of the Gov- 
ernment and citizens of every State. There can certainly be no ob- 
ject more worthy of the cares of the local administrations, and it were 
to be wished that there was 710 doubt of the power of the national 
Government to lend its direct aid on a comprehensive plan? and he 
then proceeds to shew why the thing could be better done by the 
latter. 

Such language coming from a man of his known dispositions can 
receive but one construction, and in his letter to Mr. Dayton, 1 eight 
years afterwards, in which he drew up a programme of the steps 
that ought, in his judgment, to be taken by the party in power, he 
uses the following language : " an article ought to be proposed to 
be added to the Constitution for empowering Congress to open 
canals in all cases to which it may be necessary to conduct them 
thro' two or more States or through the territory of a State and of 
the United States." This letter, which has now, for the first time, 
come to light thro' the publication of Hamilton's private papers 
brings our knowledge of his opinion to the point of absolute cer- 
tainty. He was not the man to go to the People or the States for 
additional power if he believed that a claim to that which he de- 
sired was at all tenable under the Constitution as it stood. 

Mr. Calhoun's Bonus Bill, introduced at the first session after the 
peace proposed to set apart and pledge the Bank Fund Bonus as a 
* fund for constructing roads and canals and improving the navi- 
gation of water courses in order Ac. Ac", and in his introductory 
speech he treated the question of power as indubitable. Referring 
to the circumstance that no measure of the kind had been ever before 
introduced he attributed the omission to the adverse state of the 
Country in regard to the finances and other causes and regarded 

» Jonathan Dayton, 1790, In Hamilton'! Works, edited by John C. Hamilton (N. Y., 
1851) T. G, p. 883. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN YAK BUREN. 299 

Ids, as it in truth was, as a pioneer project. u To perfect the com- 
munication from Maine to Louisiana, the connexion of the Lakes 
with the Hudson River, to connect the great commercial points on 
the Atlantic, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, Richmond, 
Charleston and Savannah with the Western States and to perfect 
the intercourse between the West and New Orleans" were among 
the objects he contemplated. Even Timothy Pickering, altho' he 
had no difficulty in finding excuses for supporting Mr. Calhoun's 
Bill, could not refrain from expressing his dissent from the views 
the latter had taken of the Constitution, which he thought too lati- 
tudinarian : — " he did not admit the latitude ° of construction given 
by the gentleman from South Carolina to the terms of the Constitu- 
tion. He had quoted that part of the Constitution which said that 
Congress had power " to lay and collect taxes, duties, imports and 
excises" — for what purpose?, in order — "to>pay the debts and pro- 
vide for the common defence and general welfare", and hence the 
gentleman had inferred that as roads and canals would provide for 
the common defence and general welfare therefore Congress had 
power to make roads and canals. If this interpretation of the Con- 
stitution be correct then the subsequent enumeration of powers was 
superfluous, for the terms "to provide for the general welfare" 
would embrace the following enumerated powers and every other 
imaginable power the exercise of which would promote the general 
welfare." 

Mr. Clay, then Speaker, congratulated Mr. Calhoun on the honor of 
having introduced the subject, and his Country on the advantages 
she could not fail to derive from the measure proposed, and expressed 
an unequivocal opinion in favor of its constitutionality. The Bill 
was ably opposed by several and particularly that honest man and 
pure patriot, Philip P. Barbour, of Virginia, by arguments which 
Messrs. Clay and Calhoun in vain attempted to refute. It was, not- 
withstanding, passed by a small majority in the House and a larger 
in the Senate, after a specious amendment requiring the assent of the 
States to the expenditure of the money within their respective bounds. 

Mr. Madison, ill at ease, I cannot doubt, from having just before 
given his assent to the re-establishment of a Bank, an act at variance 
with principles vital to the Constitution, of which he, above all other 
men, was entitled to the credit of having been their enlightened 
expounder but which he had felt himself constrained to desert be- 
cause he thought doubtless honestly, that the abuse of those principles 
upon that point had acquired too deep and too strong root to be dis- 
turbed, promptly interposed his veto. He did so perhaps the more 
readily under an apprehension that this additional encroachment 

* M8. Ill, IK 13a 



'900 AMBRIOAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

upon the Constitution might have originated in his own f orgetfnlness 
of the past In his veto Message, with the chastity and felicity of 
expression in which he had no equal, he placed the unconstitution- 
ality of the measure and the insufficiency of the Veil which had been 
thrown over its character by the Senate, in the plainest possible 
points of view. His message deprived the Bill of the majority it 
had obtained in the House, in which it originated, but it did not 
convince Clay, Calhoun or Webster, all of whom voted for it not- 
withstanding the veto. Indeed Mr. Clay was so eager to place him- 
self on record in favor of the abstract proposition of Constitutional 
power that, altho' not obliged, as Speaker, to vote, there being no ti£, 
he claimed the right to do so in that case. Mr. Calhoun was soon 
after appointed Secretary of War by Mr. Monroe and retired from 
Congress. In his first Report in that capacity he r 

At the first session of the succeeding Congress the subject was 
again brought forward by a Report from Professor Tucker,* Chair- 
man of the Committee on Roads and Canals, a representative of the 
State of Virginia, tho' not an adherent of her prevailing politics. 
His Report sustained the constitutionality and expediency of such 
measures as that which Mr. Madison's veto had defeated and con- 
cluded with a Resolution in accordance with the Report. Mr. Clay, 
in an elaborate and able speech supported the positions he had 
before taken. This debate also brought more conspicuously into 
public view William Lowndes, of South Carolina, a man whom from 
the beginning of his public life, all regarded with much favor. Sev- 
eral distinct resolutions were finally offered by Mr. Lowndes as a 
substitute for that reported by the Committee. That which claimed 
the right to appropriate money for the construction of post roads, 
military and other roads and to make canals and for the improvement 
of water courses passed by a majority of 15 in 164 votes. Those 
which asserted a power to construct roads and canals necessary for 
commerce between the States, to construct canals for military pur- 
poses, were severally rejected by small majorities. Other proposi- 
tions were presented but Mr. Lowndes, observing that the sense of 
the House had been fully expressed in favor of the right to appro- 
priate money for the construction of roads and canals and had thus 
removed obstructions to propositions enftracing that object, moved 
to lay the rest of the Report on the table, which motion prevailed. 

1 A pencil note here states that space is left " for Calhoun's recommendations of 
Internal Improvements in his first Report as Secretary of War." Van Buren*s recol- 
lection is at fault Calhoun's first report as Secretary of War was Tery brief and did 
not diBcuss this subject. His la$t annual report, December, 1824, dealt with the matter 
in considerable fullness. For a good general account see Meigs' Life of Calhoun (N. Y.„ 
1917), t. 2, 246-G1 and, in the Works of Calhoun, his letter to Henry Clay, Speaker of 
the House of Representatives, Jan. 14, 1810, Vol. V, pp. 40-54 ; also <&<&, pp. 142-6. . 

* Henry St. George Tucker. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN VAN BT7ERN. 801 

Mr. Lowndes views were throughout characterized by modesty, 
candour and sincerity which commanded the respect of all and con- 
ciliated for their author the esteem of those even who dissented from 
their correctness. He admitted that public works, such as were 
referred to, would in all probability be more economically and better 
constructed when the fruit of individual enterprise, or when made 
under the authority of the States, but roads and canals had, he said, 
been objects of attention to Government in all Countries and they 
were, in his opinion, necessary works of that description that would 
never be constructed unless by the Federal Government, and sincerely 
believing that Congress possessed the requisite power he was in favor 
of having them made under its authority and at the expense of the 
nation. 

He was unhappily obliged to retire from public life at the age of 
forty one and died, in January, 1828 an his way to Europe in pursuit 
of health, lamented by all who had known him and having by his 
honorable, just and distinguished tho' unobtrusive career impressed 
the public mind with a very general belief that his chances for the 
Presidency would have been, but for his early death, better than 
those of any of his cotempotraries. 

In respect to the extreme power over the subject of internal im- 
provements—that of construction — this great effort in it* behalf 
resulted in its complete overthrow. Even in respect to the power of 
appropriation, the movement notwithstanding Mr. Lowndes' attempt 
to swell the majority beyond its legitimate limits, could scarcely 
be otherwise regarded than as a defeat or in any the most favourable 
view, as a barren triumph. 

Mr. Monroe, at the same session, re-affirmed, in his annual Mes- 
sage, his adherence to the Virginia doctrines upon the question of 
the power of Congress to construct roads and canals, and informed 
that body in advance, very much to the annoyance of Mr. Clay, 
whose position at the moment was one of quasi-opposition to the 
Administration, that if they pressed a law for such a purpose he 
would be constrained to object to its passage. But he did not say 
or intimate, neither was there any reason to apprehend, nor is it 
probable that he had changed his views in respect to any other por- 
tions of those doctrines. A majority of only fifteen in a represen- 
tation numbering more than two hundred, with a minority moved 
by a single and sacred motive— to protect the Constitution — against 
those who were in great part seeking the advancement of local ob- 
jects which were in themselves well calculated to engender rivalries 
and divisions, and with the impending danger of a Presidential 
veto) offered but slight temptation to efforts for the establishment 
of a system of internal improvements under the patronage of the 
Federal Government. 



804 AMERICA* HISTORICAL ASSOCIATED*. 

But whatever may have been die origin of this change in Mr. Mem- 
roe's constitutional views there was no room for question in respect to 
its extent. The principles of the party in which he had been reared 
had been commended to his preference not only by the circumstances 
of his location and the character of his early associates, but by his 
own habits of circumspection. Honest and considerate in his conduct 
he was never the slave of momentary impulses but arrived at his con- 
clusions by proverbially slow degrees after long and careful delibera- 
tion. Mr. Webster exemplified his dispositions in this respect by an 
amusing anecdote. It was, he said, the President's habit to write 
on a slate the names of the candidates for prominent places, and after 
the lists were completed, to rub out one name every day until only 
one remained, when the slate, of course, was sent to the proper office 
to have the commission made out 

Fettma lente having thus been the rule of bin life, he seemed on 
the occasion of which we are now writing, to have passed in the 
twinkling of an eye from one extreme to another. The doctrine set 
forth in the manifesto that accompanied his veto-Message on the 
Cumberland Road B}11, in regard to the power of Congress to appro- 
priate the national revenue, embraced all that Alexander Hamilton 
had ever contended for. In his famous Report upon Manufactures 
the latter in substance thus defines the power of the Federal Govern- 
ment to raise money: 

' These three qualifications excepted, (viz : that all duties, imposts and excises 
shall be uniform throughout the United States, that no direct tax shall be laid 
unless in proportion to the federal numbers of the different States and that no 
tax or duty shall be laid on exports) the power to raise money is plenary and 
indefinite, * * * and there seems to be no room for a doubt that whatever 
concerns the general interests of learning, of agriculture, of manufactures and 
of commerce comes within the sphere of the national councils as far as regards 
an application of money. 

Mr. Monroe explained his new position substantially as follows : 

It is contended on the one side that as this is a Government of limited powers 
it has no right to expend money except in the performance of acts authorized 
by the other specific grants according to a strict construction of their powers; 
♦ * * To this construction I was inclined In the more early stage of oar 
Government; but on further reflection and observation my mind has under- 
gone a change for reasons I will frankly unfold. 

Then after speaking of the unqualified character of the power to 
declare war and other powers, he says : 

The power to raise money by taxes, duties, imposts and excises is alike un- 
qualified, nor so do I see any check on the exercise of it other than that which 
applies to the other powers— the responsibility of the. representative to his 
constituents. * * * If we look to the q£her branch of this power — the 
appropriation of the money thus raised, — we find that it is not less general 
and unqualified than the power to raise it 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN VAN BURBN. 805 

He proceeds with an endeavour to prove, by a course of reason- 
ing which he would once have himself pronounced more specious 
than solid, that the framers of the Constitution, as well as those by 
whom it was adopted, designed that both powers should be unquali- 
fied. Few persons will contend that, in respect to the power to 
raise and expend revenue, Hamilton went one iota farther than 
Monroe. The language of the former was more graceful and capti- 
vating but the latter took especial care that it was not more general 
or far reaching. 

Who, in former days, could have contemplated the possibility that 
a Virginia President, one of the first members of the old republican 
party and elected as such, would ever be brought to establish, so far 
as an act of the Executive branch of the Federal Government was 
capable of establishing it, one of the most ultra and, in practice, 
likely to be one of the most dangerous principles ever advocated by 
Alexander Hamilton, and that the individual thus acting would be 
J antes Monroe between whom and Hamilton ° political differences 
had ripened into personal hostility extending to the brink of per- 
sonal combat) How strong must have been the influence which 
could work such a change I The laxness of the times, in respect to 
political consistency, in a great degree brought about by the agency 
of Mr. Monroe himself, doubtless had much to do with it, but I have 
always thought that political rivalry was not without its influence 
in producing a result so remarkable and so much to be deprecated. 

* Ma in f p. 14a 

127483°— vol 2—20 20 



CHAPTER XXIV. 

When the Message and the accompanying papers were sent to Con- 
gress little had been said of Gen. Jackson in connection with the 
question of succession to Mr. Monroe and, especially in the early 
part of the canvass, Mr. Adams' claims were but lightly regarded. 
In 1817-18 Clay and Calhoun were most prominent among the heirs 
apparent. Altho' exercising his usual prudence in the matter, Mr. 
Monroe was notwithstanding well understood to prefer Mr. Calhoun* 
The general conviction doubtless influenced to some extent Mr. Clay's 
course towards the Administration. He first threw cold water on 
the efforts to bring about an amalgamation of parties, and satirized, 
with considerable severity, in one of his speeches, the attentions re* 
ceived by the President, on a Northern tour, from the old federalists* 
The Administration in turn for some time gave an equally inhospita- 
ble reception to Mr. Clay's endeavours to bring about the recogni- 
tion of South American Independence; but when, by the progress 
of events, and the indications of public sentiment, efforts to arrest 
that measure had become unsafe, it exerted itself to take the matter 
out of Mr. Clay's hands by means of a virtual recommendation of it 
by the President himself. I well remember Mr. Calhoun's exulting 
remark when the Message on this subject and this effect of it were 
alluded to : " Yes ! the fruit has now become ripe and may be safely 
plucked ! " It was in this way that Mr. Clay was, as he supposed, 
deprived of the credit he hoped to have acquired by his championship 
of South American Independence. His was not a temperament long 
to brook hostility open or covert His deep dissatisfaction with the 
President's course in announcing in advance in his Annual Message 
in December 1817, that he could not approve of a Bill authorizing the 
construction of roads or canals, has been noticed. He spoke of it in 
his great effort on that occasion as a step which if taken by the 
Crown would have been regarded in England as a breach of the 
privileges of Parliament and said that it deserved to be considered 
here, whatever might have been the President's motive, as an attempt 
to dictate to Congress. Altho' he treated the President throughout 
with the respect due to his station he evidently did so at the sacrifice 
of deeply seated feelings of a different character. When it is recol- 
lected that the resolutions asserting the power of Congress on that 
occasion were rejected by very small majorities he might well at- 
tribute their defeat as he did to this out of the way tho' not posi- 
306 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN VAN BUEEN. 307 

lively irregular step of the President. The introduction by Mr. 
Clay's (liter ego, Mr. Trimble, 1 of the Bill authorizing the establish- 
ment of toll-gates on the Cumberland Road may have originated 
solely, or even chiefly in the impatience of Congress at the expences 
of that Road and in a natural desire to relieve the Treasury from 
further appropriations of money to keep it in repair: but I con- 
fess that I did not see the movement in that light. To compell Mr. 
Monroe, with the sanction of his Cabinet, not less than three of 
whose members were contestants in expectancy for the Presidency, to 
apply the the general principle to which he had volunteered an 
avowal at the preceding session, of his continued adherence to the 
pet public work of the West, or, by omitting to do so, to admit its 
unsoundness, was a temptation too strong for a man like Mr. Clay 
to resist. He had been baffled by the Administration in an object 
in which I have no doubt that his feelings were earnestly engaged 
and upon his success in which he had made large calculations and 
his retort could hardly be regarded as a reckless one. 

By the provisions of the Bill, which was carried through under 
the lead of Mr. Trimble, — Mr. Clay having retired for one Congress, 
but I need not add, having his eye on Washington, — the Adminis- 
tration was driven to the alternative I have described. I am con- 
Gdent that Mr. Monroe and the principal members of his Cabinet so 
understood the movement. In resisting it Messrs. Adams, Crawford 
and Calhoun acted as a unit, for altho' in regard to their political 
aspirations each engineered for himself they were equally opposed to 
Mr. Clay's pretensions. Nor was there then much difference in the 
character of their personal relations with him, these not being in 
either case very cordial ; perhaps the least so between Mr. Adams 
and himself in consequence of their then recent and angry corre- 
spondence in regard to occurences at Ohent. The movement was 
met, as was to have been expected from men of their calibre, by 
an act of a strong stamp, the extent and bearing of which Mr. Clay 
can hardly have foreseen. The veto was promptly interposed, and 
so far the Administration was successful, but by the accompanying 
Presidential manifesto, Mr. Monroe, changing the opinions of his 
whole previous life, exposed the national treasury to appropriations 
to any extent for the construction of roads and canals and internal 
improvements of every description. 

Mr. Clay was not in a situation to take advantage of this re- 
markable somersault of his opponents, for he at that time permitted 
no man to go beyond him in latitudinarian constructions of the 
Constitution. Of this the Administration was well aware, but it 
forgot that he was not the only or the principal observer of its 

» William A. Trimble, of Ohio. 



808 AMERICAN HISTORICAL. ASSOCIATION". 

course. It overlooked the circumstance in the eagerness of the 
struggle, that there was yet a large segment of the old republican 
party sufficient to form the nucleus for a subsequent successful rally, 
which had not been carried away by the "era of good feeling," 
which tho' perhaps not much surprised, was sorely grieved by an 
act of such flagrant backsliding on the part of the President of 
their choice and who saw in it the fulfilment of the forebodings 
which had been excited by his previous dalliance with the opposi- 
tion. By the utter loss of the confidence of this class Mr. Monroe 
and those for whose advancement he was desirous, doubtless sin- 
cerely and honestly, sustained a far greater injury than any tem- 
porary advantage over Mr. Clay could make good. 

The veto was interposed near the close of the session and nothing 
further was done upon the general subject but the struggle was re- 
sumed at the earliest practicable moment. 

Mr. Hemphill * as Chairman of the Committee on Roads and Canals 
had, at the same session, reported a Bill to procure plans and surveys 
preparatory to the establishment of a general system, but it was 
not acted upon. At the beginning of the next he had that Bill 
committed to the Committee of the Whole. It was considered, 
and a motion by Mr. Barbour to strike out the first section, on con- 
stitutional grounds, failed under the influence of the veto, and 
the Bill would have passed but for a new move upon the political 
chess board that prevented it. The legislation of Congress was 
obviously upon the point of receiving the direction which was 
designed to be given to it by Mr. Monroe's veto and the accompany- 
ing expositions of his new opinions. The policy of the Adminis- 
tration, that of abandoning the power of construction and of con- 
fining the agency of the Federal Government to appropriations of 
money in aid of Works constructed by the States, or by individuals 
under their authority, — was on the point of triumphing over the 
policy of Mr. Clay, which went far beyond it, when the Bill was 
tabled on the motion of Mr. Hardin, 2 of Kentucky, a friend of Mr. 
Clay, and a motion to take it up afterwards refused by the strong 
vote of 111 to 42, on which division seven of the nine Kentucky 
members, all ardent advocates for internal improvements by the 
General Government, together with several prominent Clayites from 
the West, and from other parts of the Union, voted against further 
action upon the subject; and nothing further was done during the 
session of 1822-3. 

In his annual Message, at the next session, 1828-4, President 
Monroe came to the aid of the policy which his communication to 
the previous Congress had been designed to install and which the 

1 Joseph Hemphill. 'Benjamin Hardin. • MS. III, p. 146. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN VAN BUREN. 809 

closing movement on the subject at the last session seemed destined 
to check, and reiterated his opinion in favor of the power of Con- 
gress, recommending an appropriation for the employment of the 
requisite number of Engineers to make the necessary preparatory 
examinations for Canals connecting the Ohio with the Chesapeake 
and also for connecting the waters of the Ohio with Lake Erie. Mr. 
Hemphill reported his Bill and it was elaborately discussed. Mr. 
Clay, who had been re-elected and again chosen Speaker, presented 
himself at the very threshold of the debate, denied in toto the doc- 
trines of the tte&^Message, insisted that if Congress had not the 
right to cause those works to be constructed, it had no right to pay 
for them or to appropriate money in aid of their construction, 
claimed that the Constitutional question upon that point arose upon 
this Bill and would be decided by it, &c. Ac* Mr. Hemphill, still 
Chairman of the Committee on Roads and Canals, concurred in the 
views expressed by Mr. Clay and advocated the passage of the Bill 
on the same grounda The discussions were still more elaborate than 
those of 1818, and drew out the power of the House. That pure and 
inflexible sentinel on the ramparts of the Constitution, Philip P. 
Barbour, moved again to strike out the first section of the Bill, on 
the ground of a want of power in Congress to construct and a 
consequent want of power to appropriate money for surveys. His 
motion failed by a vote of 109 to 74, and the Bill was finally passed. 
Nothing more was done upon the subject at that session, and so the 
matter stood at the time of the Presidential election of 1824. 

Making all reasonable allowance for the possibility that the ad- 
mitted ardour of my political life may continue to influence my judg- 
ment more than I imagine it does, I feel confident that no well 
balanced mind can review the facts and circumstances to which I 
have referred, — established as they are by the recorded testimony of 
the actors themselves — without admitting the justness of my con- 
clusion that the important principle contended for by the advocates 
of internal improvements by the Federal Government was used by 
its professed supporters as a political shuttle-cock which they tossed 
backward or forward according to the feelings and exigencies of the 
moment Advancing, receding or standing still, the acts of the 
parties plainly appear now, when passion has subsided and when 
their projects ' have been either abandoned or jostled aside by the 
march of time and events, to have been controlled by partisan views 
under cover of loud professions for the public good. Nor can this 
charge be limited to those of whom we speak. It is a vice inseparable 
from political conflicts that in a large majority of cases the interests 
of parties and of those whose public fortunes they desire to advance 
are consulted before those of the Country. It would perhaps not 



810 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

t 

be going too far to say that the exceptions are only when such a 
course would so palpably disclose the real motive to the general pub- 
lic as to defeat its purpose or when the direction of affairs falls to 
the hand of a man who takes particular pride in the adoption of 
measures commonly considered unpopular when he can satisfy his 
own mind that he is promoting the public interest 

The People having failed to elect a President, Mr. Adams was 
raised to the head of the Government by the House of Representa- 
tives, and Mr. Clay was placed at the head of his Cabinet. They 
both held that Congress had power to cause to be constructed and 
paid for out of the national revenue all such internal improvements 
as would, in its judgment, be conducive to the common defence and 
general welfare and we have never had reason to believe there was 
a single dissentient from that opinion in the new Cabinet. There 
was therefore no constitutional restraint upon the action of Con- 
gress in this matter other than that which might be expected from 
members of the old republican party who yet adhered to the prin- 
ciples of their predecessors, but who constituted minorities in both 
branches of the national Legislature. The results of this state of 
things may well be imagined, especially by all who have had op- 
portunities to observe the facility with which members of Congress 
come to regard everything that can be carried home from the pub- 
lic treasury as lawful spoil and the zeal with which they struggle 
to secure the expenditure in their own districts of whatever can 
be extracted from it. The execution of Hemphill's act, authoriz- 
ing the President to cause surveys and plans for public works to 
be made, exhibited a striking view of the character and tendency 
of this disposition on the part of the representatives and their con- 
stituents. So difficult was it for the War Department to satisfy 
itself for the purpose of discrimination of the real character of dis- 
tant claims to notice and so pressing the solicitations that every 
corner of the Country was fast being surveyed preparatory to im- 
provements of some kind, for the most part of a purely local char- 
acter, and so flagrant did these abuses become that the wisest friends 
of the system insisted, in its defence, that the law should be so al- 
tered as to make a specific act of Congress necessary in each case. 

The condition of things at the period of Gen. Jackson's elevation to 
the Presidency was thus described in one of his annual Messages. 
Speaking of the claim of power in Congress to make internal im- 
provements within a State, with the right of jurisdiction sufficient 
for its preservation, he says : 

Yet we all know that notwithstanding these grave objections, this dangerous 
doctrine was at one time apparently proceeding to its final establishment with 
tearful rapidity. The desire to embark the Federal Government In works of 
Internal Improvement prevailed in the highest degree during the first session 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MAKTIN VAN BUREN. 811 

of the first Congress that I had the honor to meet in my present situation, and 
when the Bill authorizing a subscription on the part of the United States for 
stock in the Maysvllle and Lexington turnpike company passed the two Houses, 
there had been reported by the Committees on Internal Improvements, Bills 
containing appropriations for such objects, inclusive of those for the Cumber- 
land Road, and for harbours and light houses, to the amount of about one 
hundred and six tnMUon* of dollars. In this amount was included authority to 
the Secretary of the Treasury to subscribe for the stock of different companies 
to a great extent and the residue was principally for the direct construction of 
Uoads by this Government In addition to these projects which had been 
presented to the two Houses under the sanction and recommendation of their 
respective Committees on Internal Improvements, there were then still pending 
before the Committees, and in memorials presented, but not referred, different 
projects for works of a similar character, the expense of which cannot be 
estimated with certainty tat may have exceeded one hmdred Millions of 
dollars. 1 

Among the Bills referred to was one to authorize the construction 
of a road from Buffalo to New Orleans which failed by a majority of 
only fifteen, and was reconsidered by a majority of eight less than 
two weeks before the interposition of the veto; besides numerous 
other cases of corresponding magnitude. 

1 Sixth annual menage, Dec. 2, 1884. 



CHAPTER XXV. 

The paints in our domestic concerns which at this time occupied 
the largest share of President Jackson's personal attention were 
the Bank and the removal of the Indians. The engrossing char- 
acter of the latter has been already described and that of the 
former will be exhibited in its turn. Having for several years 
made the subject of Internal Improvements by the Federal Gov- 
ernment my study, apprehensions of the evils their prosecution, 
as the Constitution stood, might entail upon the Country had be- 
come grave, and sincerely believing that the adverse current which 
had set in that direction might and could only be arrested thro 9 
the General's extraordinary popularity I early and assiduously 
pressed the matter upon his consideration. He embraced my sug- 
gestions not only with alacrity but with that lively zeal with which 
he received every proposition which he thought could be made 
conducive to the public good. I propose to give a succinct account 
6f the steps that proceeded from our conversations; and I will 
first briefly notice some of the General's characteristic qualities by 
which their advancement was essentially promoted. It is however 
far from my intention to attempt a complete portraiture of indi- 
vidual character. I am conscious that such attempts often, not 
to say generally, manifest the° ambition of the author to shew 
his skill in depicting a perfectly good or an absolutely bad char- 
acter instead of a desire to portray his subject as he really was, 
and that the picture, when finished is thus a reflection of his 
imagination rather than a reliable representation of real life. I 
hope to make the world better acquainted with the true character 
of Andrew Jackson than it was before, but I design to do this 
chiefly by correct reports of what he said and did on great occasions. 

Although firm to the last degree in the execution of his resolution 
when once formed, I never knew a man more free from conceit, or 
one to whom it was to a greater extent a pleasure, as well as a 
recognized duty, to listen patiently to what might be said to him upon 
any subject under consideration until the time for action had arrived. 
Akin to his disposition in this regard was his readiness to acknowl- 
edge error whenever an occasion to do so was presented and a 
willingness to give full credit to his co-actors on important occasions 
without ever pausing to consider how much of the merit he awarded 
was at the expense of that due to himself. In this spirit he received 

* MS. Ill, p» 160. 

312 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MABTTN VAN BUREN. 818 

the aid of those associated with him in the public service in the 
preparation^ the public documents that were issued under his name, 
wholly indifferent in regard to the extent to which their participation 
was known, solicitous only that they should be understood by those 
to whom they were addresnd as a true record of his opinions, his 
resolutions and his ads. Thai point secured he cared little either as 
to the form of words in which they were expressed, or as to the 
agency through which the particular exposition was concocted. 

Neither, I need scarcely say, was he in the habit of talking, much 
less of boasting of his own achievements. Content with the part ho 
had actually taken in the conduct and solution of any important 
public question and never having reason to complain of the opinions 
formed and expressed of his acts by a large majority of his Country- 
men he had neither a desire nor a motive to parade his own or to 
shine in borrowed plumes. I have already spoken of Gen. Jackson's 
early preference for the self-denying theory and strict-construction 
doctrines of the old republican school and have also, I believe, 
noticed the circumstance that when quite a young man and a younger 
politician he chose rather to expose himself to the odium of recording 
his name against a vote of confidence in and thanks to Gen. Wash- 
ington than to suffer himself to be caught in the trap set for him 
and his republican associates by Fisher Ames and company, 1 The 
design of that artifice was so to connect an approval of the measures 
which the federalists in Congress had sustained and which the repub- 
licans had opposed with an expression of the favorable sentiments 
universally entertained towards Gen. Washington and his motives 
in all things, as to put it out of the power of the latter to stand by 
their avowed opinions without refusing to concur in that expression. 
They snapped the cords with which it was thus attempted to fetter 
them and Gen. Jackson's vote on that occasion was urged against him 
when he became a candidate for the Presidency, some thirty years 
after. 

But the principle of internal improvements by the Federal Gov- 
ernment, so far from being acted upon when he was first in Con- 
gress, was, as has been seen, disavowed by the great leader of the 
administration, and a large share of Gen. Jackson's time was spent 
in the camp whilst the subject wae debated by the rising men of the 
day from 1816 to 1628, when he re-appeared on the floor of Con- 
gress. There was bnrides a peculiarity in his position at the latter 
period which, tho 1 it could not— as nothing could — lead him, to do 
wrong when it became necessary to act, was nevertheless well calcu- 
lated to lessen somewhat, for the moment at least, his active partici- 
pation in this particular branch of legislation. To give to that 

» For an account of this mo Parton't U/e of Jackaoo (N. Y., 1860), v. 1, 206-212. 



314 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

peculiarity the weight to which it was entitled the reader must bear 
in mind the influence exerted by Pennsylvania in bringing Gen. 
Jackson forward for the Presidency, an influence which will not I 
think be over-estimated when it is regarded as having controlled the 
result; and this consideration deserves to be constantly remembered 
whilst canvassing the merits of his subsequent course upon several 
very important points. 

Pennsylvania is in every sense of the word a great state and 
worthy of high respect— great in her material resources and great in 
the constant industry, the morality and general intelligence of her 
People. When to the credit she derives from these sources is added 
that which has naturally accrued from the moderate and sound 
character of her general course it will be seen how well she has 
deserved the honor shewn her by her sister States in the title with 
which they have distinguished her of " the key stone of the arch of 
the Union." 

It is nevertheless true that she has for a long time presented a 
favorable field for the agitation of political questions which ad- 
dress themselves to special interests in the communities upon which 
they are pressed. Internal Improvements by the Federal Govern- 
ment, a high protective tariff and a Bank of the United States had, 
for many years before Gen. Jackson's accession to the Presidency, 
been regarded as favorite measures with the good people of Penn- 
sylvania. In respect to the first, which is now the subject of our 
consideration, both of the great Reports of the Committees on Roads 
and Canals, at the period when it embraced a large share of the 
attention of Congress, were from Pennsylvanians, — Mr. Wilson * and 
Mr. Hemphill. Yet these measures and the question of the removal 
of the Indians, which had so strongly excited their misdirected sym- 
pathies, were destined to be the principal domestic subjects on which 
Gen. Jackson's Administration, if he succeeded in the election, was 
to be employed. With the two last, (the Bank and the Tariff) he 
had made himself familiar and as to them his course was fixed; and, 
foreseeing the necessity he would be under upon those points to 
run counter to the wishes of his Pennsylvanian friends at the very 
threshhold of his administration, it was natural that a man of his 
generous temper, and of whose character fidelity to friendship was 
the crowning grace, should have been desirous to avoid any addition 
to the issues between himself and his no less generous supporters, as 
far as that could be avoided without dereliction of duty. 

It was under such circumstances, and never having made the 
constitutional question in relation t6 the power of Congress over 
the matter a subject of critical examination, that he voted in 

» Henry Wilson. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY 07 MABTIK TAN BUBEN. 815 

1828-4 and 5, in favor of the acts " to provide for the necessary sur- 
veys for roads and canals ", and " authorizing a subscription to the 
stock of the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal Company " and a few 
other propositions of similar import, which votes were vehemently 
urged, by his opponents, against his subsequent course. 

My debut in Congress had not been free from a like discrepancy. 
The bill providing for the erection of toll-gates on the Cumberland 
Road came before us a few months after I had taken my seat in the 
Senate of the United States and I gave a silent vote in favor of it. 
Mr. Monroe's veto, which would have shed enduring honor on his 
name, if he had suffered it to stand alone, brought me to instant and 
thorough examination and reflection. It did not take me long to 
satisfy myself that I had acted under a grave mistake and I em- 
braced an early opportunity to acknowledge my error on the floor of 
the Senate. Convinced also of the inexpediency as well as uncon- 
stitutionality of the construction of works of interna! improvement 
under the direct or indirect authority of the Federal Government, s6 
long as the Constitution remained as it was I became earnestly 
solicitous not only to arrest the course of legislation on the subject, 
which was then making fearful progress, but to devise some way by 
which it could be placed on a better and a safer footing. My name 
will be found recorded against all the Bills which the General voted 
for and I believe against every similar proposition subsequent to the 
act to erect toll-gates on the Cumberland Road. I have now care- 
fully examined the Journals of Congress and reviewed my official 
acts to the close of my public life, and can, I think, safely challenge 
a comparison with the straitest of the strict-construction sect in 
regard to° a faithful adherence to the principles of that school, with 
the single exception of which I have spoken. When I recall the 
names of the many good and pure men who made themselves hon- 
orably conspicuous in the support of those principles, particularly 
among the Statesmen of Virginia and North Carolina, I am sensible 
of the boldness of this proffer, but even then do not shrink from it. 
Not content with steadily voting against all unauthorized measures 
of the character referred to, and fearing from what was daily pass- 
ing before my eyes, that it would not be long in the power of those 
who were faithful to the principles of the Constitution to arrest or 
even to check the torrent of reckless legislation which had set in so 
powerfully, I proposed an amendment of the Constitution, the object 
of which was to make that lawful which was then illicit and to pro- 
tect the public interest against abuses by wholesome constitutional 
restraints, and which I insert here, with the brief remarks with which 

I introduced it: 

— -»^— — ^_ ^— _^~ — . — — .. .-. . _ - . . _ _ . — . — •— — ~^ — . . . 

• MS. Ill, p. 155. 



$16 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

Mr. Van Buren rose, in pursuance of notice given on Wednesday last, to 

ask leave to introduce a joint resolution, proposing an amendment to the Consti- 
tution of the United States, on the subject of the power of Congress to make 
roads and canals. He said he was as much opposed as any man to frequent 
alterations of the form of government under which we live, but he would make 
no apology for bringing this matter before the Senate, in so Imposing a form 
as that of an amendment to the Constitution. He would now do so, because he 
wag entirely convinced that no one could dispassionately consider the present 
state of the question, to which his resolution relates, without feeling the im- 
perious necessity of some Constitutional provision on the subject It was 
not his intention, at this time, to enter into the discussion of the matter; he 
would only submit one or two general remarks in relation to It Of the Im- 
portance of the question, it was not necessary' to speak. Suffice it to say that, 
in its scope, it embraces the funds of the nation to an unlimited extent, and 
in its result must affect, as far as the agency of the Federal Government was 
concerned, the future internal improvement of a great and flourishing country- 
Is the power to make roads and canals, within the States, now vested In the 
Federal Government? Individuals, said Mr. V. B. f may give their impres- 
sions, with their reasons for the various Ingenious constructions they put 
upon the different parts of the Constitution, to make out that this power exists ; 
but all candid men will admit that there are few questions more unsettled. 
Whilst, in some States, the power is universally conceded, and its exercise 
loudly required, in others, its existence Is as generally denied, and its ex- 
ercise as ardently resisted. Is there cause to believe that, as the Constitution 
now stands, a construction will obtain, which will be so far acquiesced in 
as to be regarded and enforced as one of the established powers of the General 
Government? He thought there was not For about twenty years, this sub- 
ject had been one of constant and earnest discussion. Efforts have at various 
times been made in Congress to exercise the power in question. They have 
met sometimes with more, and sometimes with less, favor. Bills, containing 
the assertion, and directing the exercise of this power, have passed the two 
Houses, and been returned, with objections, by two successive Presidents, and 
failed for want of the Constitutional majority. The last Congress and the 
Executive were arrayed against each other, upon the question, and as far as 
a recent vote of the other House may be regarded as evidence of the present 
opinion of Congress, there is every reason to believe that such is now the case. 
The Government has now been in operation rising of thirty years; and al- 
though the subject has always been a matter of interest, no law clearly em* 
bracing the power has ever yet been passed. There is, therefore, but little 
reason to hope that, without some Constitutional provision, the question will 
ever be settled. If the General Government has not now the power, Mr. V. B. 
said that he for one thought that under suitable restriction^, they ought to 
have it As to what those restrictions ought to be, there might and probably 
would, be diversity of opinion. But, as to the abstract proposition, that as 
much of the funds of the nation as could be raised, without oppression, and 
as are not necessary to the discharge of existing and Indispensable demands 
upon the Government, should be expended upon Internal Improvements, under 
restrictions regarding the sovereignty and securing the equal interest of the 
States, he presumed there would be little difference of opinion. He could not 
but hope, that those who think the better construction of the Constitution is, 
that Congress now have the power, would also consent to some amendment 
They must at all events, admit that it is far from being a clear, and cer- 
tainly not a settled matter, and in Tlew of the danger always attending the 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN VAN BURBN. 317 

exercise of a doubtful right by the Federal Government against the persevering 
opposition of the several States, they would decide whether, instead of con- 
testing this matter as it has been done for so many years, it would not be more 
for the interest of the nation, as well as the credit of the Government, to place 
the matter on well defined ground* There were many strong reasons why he 
thought this course ought to be pursued, and which, at the proper time, he 
would take the liberty to urge. For the present, he would simply add that, 
independent of the collisions of State interests, which this power is more likely 
than any other to produce, the exercise of it in the present state of the Con- 
stitution, and with an Executive whose reading of it should be different from 
that of the present and the two who last preceded him, could not fail to be 
grossly unequal among the States ; because it is well known that there were 
some States who have Invariably, and who will, as long as they prefer the 
inviolability of the Constitution to their local interest, continue to oppose thu 
exercise of this power with them. Without, therefore, the ability to prevent, 
they would be excluded from the benefits of its exercise. The course now pro- 
posed had been earnestly recommended to the last Congress by the present 
Executive, and, when the subject came up for discussion, he would endeavor 
to show that its adoption was called for by the best interests of the nation. 

Leave was then granted, and Mr. Van Buren offered the following resolu- 
tion, which was read, and passed to a second reading : 

"Resolved, dc n That the following amendment of the Constitution of the 
United States be proposed to the Legislatures of the several States: 

" Congress shall have power to make roads and canals ; but all money appro- 
priated for this purpose shall be apportioned among the several States accord- 
ing to the last enumeration of their respective numbers, and applied to the 
making and repairing of roads and canals within the several States, as Con- 
gress may direct; but any State may consent to the appropriation by Con- 
gress of its quota of such appropriation in the making or repairing of roads 
and canals, without its own limits; no such road or canal shall, however, be 
made within any State, without the consent of the Legislature thereof, and all 
such money shall be so expended under their direction." * 

In December, 1825, 1 submitted to the Senate, as a substitute for 

the previous proposition, the following motion and the remarks that 

follow : 

" Raolved, That Congress does not possess the power to make Roads and 
Canals within the respective States. 

—"Resolved, That a select committee be appointed, with instructions to pre- 
pare and report a Joint Resolution, for an amendment of the Constitution, 
prescribing and defining the power Congress shall have over the subject of 
Internal Improvements, and subjecting the same to such restrictions as shall 
effectually protect the sovereignty of the respective States, and secure to them 
a just distribution of the benefits resulting from all appropriations made for 
that purpose." 
In introducing these resolutions- 
Mr. Van Buren said, that it would be recollected that he had, some days 
since, given notice of his intention to ask for leave to Introduce a joint resolu- 
tion, proposing an amendment of the Constitution on the subject of the power 
of Congress over the subject of internal improvements. Upon the suggestion 
of gentlemen who feel an Interest in the subject, and think the principal object 
can, in that way, be better effected, he had consented so far to change the 

» Jan. 22, 1824.— Annals of Congreu, 18th, 1st, Vol. I, p. 134. 



818 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

course originally contemplated, by substituting resolutions expressive of the 
sense of the Senate on the Constitution, as It now is, and proposing the appoint- 
ment of a select committee to report upon the subject, under such instruction 
as the Senate may think proper to give. Such resolutions he would now take 
the liberty of submitting. He did not, of course, wish to press their immediate 
consideration, but would call them up at as early a day as would comport with 
the state of public business and the ordinary course of proceeding in the 
Senate. He hoped he would be excused for expressing an earnest wish that the 
conceded importance of the subject would Induce gentlemen to turn their atten- 
tion to It as soon as they conveniently could, to the end that, when It was taken 
up, it might be carried to a speedy decision, and not exposed to those unprofit- 
able delays and postponements which had heretofore attended measures of a simi- 
lar character, and ultimately prevented an expression of the sense of the Senate 
on their merits. He deceived himself, if there was any matter in which, at this 
moment, their constituents felt a more intense interest, than the question of 
the rightful and probable agency of the General Government in the great work 
of Internal Improvement. Whilst, in the States, measures of that description 
had been harmonious in their progress, and, as far as the means of the States 
would admit of, successful in their results, the condition of things here had 
been of a very different character. From the first agitation of the subject, the 
constitutional power of Congress to legislate upon the subject had been a 
source of unbroken, and, frequently, angry and unpleasant controversy. The 
time, he said, had never yet been, when all the branches of the .Legislative 
Department were of the same opinion upon the question. Even those who 
united In the sentiment as to the existence of the power, differed in almost 
everything else in regard to it. Of its particular source in the Constitution, 
Its extent and attributes, very different views were entertained by its friends. 
There had not been anything in the experience of the past, nor was there any- 
thing in the prospect of the future, on which a reasonable hope could be 
founded, that this great subject could ever be satisfactorily adjusted by any 
means short of an appeal to the States. The intimate connexion between the 
prosperity of the country and works of the description referred to, would always 
induce efforts to Induce the General Government to embark In them, and there 
was but little reason to believe that its claim of power would ever be abandoned. 
As little reason was there, in his judgment, to expect that the opposition to it 
would ever be given up. The principles upon which that opposition is founded ; 
the zeal and fidelity with which it has hitherto been sustained, preclude such 
an expectation. If this view of the subject was a correct one, and it appeared 
to him that it was, he respectfully submitted it as a matter of imperious duty, 
on the part of Congress, to make a determined effort to have the question 
settled in the only way which can be final — an amendment of the Constitution, 
prescribing and defining what Congress may, and what they shall not do, 
with the restrictions under which what Is allowed to them shall be done. It 
appeared to him that not only every interest connected with the subject, but 
the credit, if not safety, of our enviable political institutions, required that 
course; for it must be evident to all reflecting men, that the reiterated com- 
plaints of constitutional Infraction must tend to relax the confidence of the 
People in the Government, and that such measures as may be undertaken upon 
the subject must be constantly exposed to peril from the fluctuations of the 
opinion of successive Legislatures. The subject, he said, had been viewed in 
Ibis light by some of the best and ablest men the country has produced. As 
early as 1906, the propriety of an appeal to the States upon the point in ques- 
tion, had been suggested by Mr. Jefferson, in bis last message to Congress. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTOT VAN BUREN. 819 

The same course had been recommended by Mr. Madison, and the recommenda- 
tion repeated by Mr. Monroe. 

As yet, no decided effort to effect this great object had been made ; he per- 
mitted himself to hope that such effort would now be made. It was true, he 
said, the subject had not been referred to by the present Executive, and the 
reasons why he had not done so were apparent, from the communications he 
has made to ua From those, It appeared that the President entertained opin- 
ions, as to the power of Congress* which removed all difficulties upon the 
subject. But Mr. V. B. said that, although that circumstance might possibly 
diminish, it certainly did not obviate the necessity of now acting upon the 
subject, as the Senate were not left to conjecture as to the fact, that there 
existed a discordance of opinion between the Executive and portions, at least— 
how large time would shew—of the other branches of the Legislative Depart* 
ment Mr. V. B. said that, entertaining such views upon the subject, he had 
felt it his duty to bring the subject thus early before the Senate, and when 
the proper period for discussion arrived, would avail himself of their indul- 
gence to assign his reasons for the course proposed.' 

These movements excited the attention and received the appro- 
bation of Mr. Jefferson and raised for the moment the drooping 
spirits of many sincere State-rights men. It soon, however, be- 
came evident that there was no reasonable hope for their success. 
It was obvious that the Virginia and Kentucky doctrines of Ninety 
Eight had been too successfully derided and contemned to leave, 
at that moment the slightest ground of confidence in the adoption 
of any such proposition. I therefore, after postponing its considera- 
tion from year to year in the hope of more favorable indications, 
suspended further efforts of that nature. But it will be seen that I 
was not idle, and that my failure was not my fault I prepared, 
after much reflection and laborious examination a brief 2 for the 
discussion of the subject, in which I take mora pride than in any 
of my speeches and which, under the sincere tho' too probably, mis- 
taken belief that I have not formed a partial estimate of it, I have 
directed to be published with such of my speeches as those who 
come after me may deem worthy of so much notice. If the mad 
schemes of that day should ever be revived those who take a part in 
defeating them may perhaps find in these notes useful suggestions. 
They will at all events prove the deep interest that I took in the 
matter and what follows will shew that in all probability they ex- 
erted, altho' in a way very different from the one originally intended 
for them, a salutary influence upon the great measure of relief to 
the Country from the evils of spurious legislation upon this great 
subject. 

None but the men who were active and conspicuous in the serv- 
ice of the Federal Government at that day, and of these now few 

* Dec. 20, 1825. — Debates in Congress, 19th, 1st, Vol. II, p. 20. 

9 This brief is not found either in the Van Bnren or the Jackson Papers in the Library 
of Congress. 



820 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

remain amongst us, can form any adequate opinion of the power 
and influence which those who had embarked their political for- 
tunes in attempts to commit the General Government irretrievably 
to the promotion and construction of Internal Improvements, had 
acquired both in Congress and among the most alert and enter- 
prising portions of the People. The wild spirit of speculation, to 
whose career our ever growing and ever moving population and 
our expanded and expanding territory offered the fairest field, be- 
came wilder over the prospect before it and the wits of Congress- 
men were severely tasked in devising and causing to be surveyed and 
brought forward under captivating disguises the thousand local 
improvements with which they designed to dazzle and seduce their 
constituents. It required an extraordinary degree of resolution in a 
public man to attempt to resist a passion that had become so ramp- 
ant, but this consideration might stimulate but could not discour- 
age Gen. Jackson so long as he was convinced that the course 
presented for his consideration was the path of duty. He was 
unfeignedly grateful to Pennsylvania for what she had done for 
him, he knew well that upon this question as upon those of the 
removal of the Indians and of the Bank she had taken a lead in 
the wrong direction, he was extremely loth to add another to the 
great points upon which his duty would compel him to throw 
himself in the way of her gratification, but for all and against 
all such appeals and motives he promptly opposed the sugges- 
tions of right, and the ever present and ever operative sense of an 
official obligation superior to personal feeling. 

He appreciated to their full extent the arguments in support of 
the inexpediency of the legislation which he was asked to arrest, 
whilst the Constitution remained unaltered, but preferred to meet 
the question on constitutional grounds. No Cabinet councils were 
called : not another member of the Cabinet was consulted before 
his decision had become irrevocable. It was understood between us 
that I should keep an eye upon the movements of Congress and 
bring to his notice the first Bill upon which I might think his in- 
terference would be preferable, and that when such a case was pre- 
sented, we would take up the question of Constitutional power and 
examine it deliberately and fully. 

The Bill authorizing a subscription to the stock of the Maysville, 
Washington, Paris and Lexington Turnpike-road Company ap- 
peared to me to present the looked for occasion. Its local character 
was incontestably established by the fact that the road commenced 
and ended in the same State. It had passed the House and could 
undoubtedly pass the Senate. The road was in Mr. Clay's own State 
and Mr. Clay was, the General thought — whether rightfully or not 
is now immaterial, — pressing the measure and the question it in- 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MABTIN VAST BUBEN. 821 

Tolved upon him rather for political effect than for public ends, and 
it was his preference, in accordance with a sound military axiom to 
make his enemy's territory the theatre of the war whenever that was 
practicable. 

I brought the subject to the President's notice during one of our 
daily rides, immediately after the passage of the Bill by the House 
and proposed to send him on our return the brief of which I have 
spoken and of which I had before promised him a perusal. I had 
myself no hesitation in respect to the course that ought to be pur- 
sued and spoke of it accordingly. He received my suggestions favor- 
ably, appeared sensible of the importance of the proposed step and 
at parting begged mq not to delay sending him the brief — which was 
done as soon as I got to my house. 

Within five days after the passage of the Bill by the House of 
Representatives I received from him the following note. 

(Private.) 

Mat 4th, 1880. 
My Deab Sib, 

I have been engaged to day as long as my head and eyes would permit, poring 
over the manuscript you handed me ; as far as I have been able to decipher it 
I think it one of the most lucid expositions of the Constitution and historical 
accounts of the departure by Congress from its true principles that I have ever 
met with. 

It furnishes clear views upon the constitutional powers of Congress. The 
inability of Congress under the Constitution to apply the funds of the Govern- 
ment to private, not national purposes I never had a doubt of. The Kentucky 
road bill involves this very power and I think it right boldly to meet it at the 
threshold. With this object in view I wish to have an Interview with you and 
consult upon this subject that the constitutional points may be arranged to bear 
upon it with clearness so that the people may fully understand it 
Can I see you this evening or Thursday morning? 
Your friend 

Andrew Jackson 
Mr. Van Buxxn. 

Those who take the trouble to refer to the manuscript will be able 
to decide for themselves on the justice of the encomiums bestowed 
upon it by the President. I returned the following answer with 
which I have been furnished by Mr. Blair, to whom the General's 
papers were entrusted by his will. 1 

° TO THE TbESIDENT. 

My deab Sib. 

I thank you for your favorable opinion of the notes. This matter has for a 
few days past borne heavily on my mind, and brought it to the precise con- 
clusion stated in your note. Under this impression I had actually commenced 
throwing my ideas on paper to be submitted to you when I should get through, 

* These papers are now in the Library of Congress. * MS. Ill, p. 160. 

127483*— vol 2—20 21 



322 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

to see whether it is not possible to defeat the aim of our adversaries in either 
respect, viz; whether it be to draw you into the approval of a Bill most em- 
phatically local, and thus endeavor to saddle you with the latitudinarlan 
notions upon which the late administration acted, or to compel you to take a 
stand against internal Improvements generally, and thus draw to their aid all 
those who* are interested in the ten thousand schemes which events and the 
course of the Government for a few past years have engendered. I think I 
see land, and that it will be in our power to serve the Country and at the same 
time counteract the machinations of those who mingle their selfish and am- 
bitious views in the matter. We shall have time enough ; the Bill has not yec 
passed the Senate and you have, you know, ten days after that 

I want to see Mr. McDuffie this evening upon the subject of the outfits and 
may not, therefore, call. I should prefer too to complete first the arrangement 
of my ideas, and then we can take up the subject more satisfactorily. 

Yours truly 

M. Van Bttben 

W. May tfh 18M. 

I requested him some days after to obtain from the Secretary of 
the Treasury the financial statement which accompanied the veto- 
Message, and received in reply the following spirited note. 

Private. 

May 15th, 18S0 
Dkab Sib, 

Your note is received. I am happy that you have been looking at the pro- 
ceedings of Congress. The appropriations now exceed the available funds in 
the Treasury, and the estimates always exceed the real amount available. I 
have Just called upon the Secretary of the Treasury for the amount of the 
estimated available balance on the 1st January 1831. 

The people expected reform retrenchment and economy in the administration 
of this Government This was the cry from Maine to Louisiana, and instead of 
these the great object of Congress, it would seem, is to make mine one of the 
most extravagant administrations since the commencement of the Government 
This must not be; The Federal Constitution must be obeyed, State-rights 
preserved, our national debt must be paid, direct taxes and loans avoided and 
the Federal union preserved. These are the objects I have in view, and regard- 
less of all consequences, will carry into effect 

Yr. friend ^ j^ 

Mr. V. B. Sec. of State. 

Let me see you this evening or in the morning. 

Not} one out of twenty of the opposition members believed that 
President Jackson, notwithstanding his proverbial indifference to 
the assumption of responsibility, in respect to measures he believed 
to be right, would venture to veto an act for the internal improve- 
ment of the Country in the then state of public opinion upon the 
subject and after the votes he had so recently given in favor of 
such acts. If they had thought otherwise they would not have 
presented him a Bill so purely local in its character. Apprehensive 
that they would, when his designs became known to them, change 
their course in that respect, and avail themselves of the selfish 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN VAN BUREN. 823 

views and unsettled opinions of a sufficient number of those who 
had been elected as Jackson men to substitute a Bill for a work more 
national in its pretensions, I was extremely solicitous that nothing 
should be said upon the subject until it should be too late for such 
a step, and pressed that point upon the General. It was the only 
one, I knew, that required to be pressed and it was, moreover, that 
which I was persuaded would be the most difficult for him. He 
was entirely unreserved in his public dealings — the People, he 
thought, should know every thing and "give it to Blair * (or Blar 
as he pronounced it) — was almost always his prompt direction when 
ever any information was brought to him which affected or might 
affect the public interest Apropos of which I was once told by 
Major Donelson that, in relation to all affairs in which men were 
alone concerned, the General was inveterately opposed to secrecy 
excepting only when a duel was in the wind, on which occasions he 
was a " counsellor — most still, most secret and most grave." Indeed 
we were often alarmed at the exposed manner in which he kept his 
letters and other private papers on his table, and ventured to remon- 
strate with him on the subject, assuring him that for ten dol- 
lars could induce a very clever but sinister looking mulatto in 

the President's service to carry them to him over night; to which 

suggestion the General replied u If will come here he shall 

have the perusal of them for half the money." An occasion was soon 
presented on which his habit in this respect involved him in some 
embarrassment. 

Col. Johnson, 1 of Kentucky, was induced by Western members, 
who had been alarmed by floating rumors, to sound the President 
and if he found that there existed danger of such a result to re* 
monstrate with him, in their names and his own, against a veto. 
At the moment of his appearance the President and myself were 
engaged in an examination of the exposfi of the state of the Treas- 
ury to which I have referred, and alone. After a delay natural to 
a man possessed as the Colonel was of much real delicacy of feel- 
ing and having an awkward commission in hand, he said that he 
had called at the instance of many friends to have some conver- 
sation with the General upon a very delicate subject and was de- 
terred from entering upon it by an apprehension that he might 
give offense. He was kindly told to dismiss such fears, and as- 
sured that as the President reposed unqualified confidence in his 
friendship he could say nothing on any public matter that would 
give offense. He then spoke of the rumors in circulation, of the 
feelingB of the General's Western friends in regard to the sub- 
ject of them, of his apprehensions of the uses that Mr. Clay would 
make of a veto, and encouraged by the General's apparent interest, 

1 Richard M. Johnson. 



324 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

and warmed by his own, he extended his open hand and exclaimed 
" General ! If this hand were an anvil on which the sledge hammer 
of the smith was descending and a fly were to light upon it in 
time to receive the blow he would not crush it more effectually 
than you will crush your friends in Kentucky if you veto that 
Bill ! " Gen, Jackson evidently excited by the bold figure and 
energetic manner of Col. Johnson, rose from his seat and ad- 
vanced towards the latter, who also quitted his chair, and the fol- 
lowing questions and answers succeeded very rapidly : " Sir, have 
you looked at the condition of the Treasury — at the amount of 
money that it contains — at the appropriations already made by 
Congress — at the amount of other unavoidable claims upon it?" — 
"No! General, I have not! But there has always been money 
enough to satisfy appropriations and I do not doubt there will 
be now !"— " Well, I have, and this is the result," (repeating the 
substance of the Treasury exhibit,) " and you see there is no money 
to be expended as my friends desire. Now, I stand committed be- 
fore the Country to pay off the National Debt, at the earliest prac- 
ticable moment; this pledge I am determined to redeem, and I 
cannot do this if I consent to encrease it without necessity. Are 
you willing — are my friends willing to lay taxes to pay for internal 
improvements? — for be assured I will not borrow a cent except in 
cases of absolute necessity!" — "No!" replied the Colonel, "that 
would be worse than a veto! " 

These emphatic declarations delivered with unusual earnestness 
and in that peculiarly impressive manner for which he was remark- 
able when excited quite overcrowed the Colonel who picked up the 
green bag which he usually carried during the ° session and mani- 
fested a disposition to retreat. As he was about to leave I remarked 
to him that he had evidently made up his mind that the General 
had determined to veto the Bill at all events, but that when he re- 
flected how much of the President's earnestness was occasioned by 
his own strong speech and how natural it was for a man to become 
excited when he has two sets of friends, in whom he has equal confi- 
dence, urging him in different directions, he would be less confident 
in his conclusion. Reminded by this observation that he had suf- 
fered the guard which he had imposed on himself to be broken down 
by the Colonel's sledge-hammer, the General told him that he was 
giving the matter a thorough investigation and that their friends 
might be assured that he would not make up his mind without 
loking at every side of it, — that he was obliged to him for what 
he had said and wished all his friends to speak to him as plainly, 
&c. &c. The Colonel with his accustomed urbanity deported himself 

MS. Ill, p. 16S. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN VAN BTTKEN. 825 

as if reassured and appeared to consider the case not so desperate 
as he had at first imagined, but his manner was assumed for the 
purpose of quieting my apprehensions which he perceived and under- 
stood. When he returned to the House he replied to the eager 
enquiries of his Western friends that the General had thanked hiift 
and assured him that he would thoroughly examine the subject, but 
his private opinion decidedly was that nothing less than a voice from 
Heaven would prevent the old man from vetoing the Bill, and he 
doubted whether that would ! 

Still so strong was the impression derived from Gen. Jackson's 
habit of never concealing his views upon a subject on which his 
mind was made up, that the incredulity of the members was but 
slightly removed by the Colonel's report : what he would do in the 
matter remained an open question to the last. The consequence was 
that the importunities of his friends were increased, but as the 
detailed account of Col. Johnson's embassy discouraged direct re* 
monstrances with the President they were addressed to me, and 
in my efforts to keep both sides quiet by statements of the difficulties 
with which the subject was environed by reason of the conflicting 
struggles of the friends of the Administration, I exposed my own 
course to some suspicion or affected suspicion in the end. The Gen- 
eral told me, on my return from England, that one of the charges 
brought against me by Mr. Calhoun's friends, to justify the rejec- 
tion of my nomination as Minister, was that I had been opposed 
to the veto and had tried to prevent him from interposing it. He 
named, in particular, Mr. Carson, 1 of North Carolina, a peppery 
young man, ardently attached to Mr. Calhoun and, for no other 
reason that I knew of, very hostile to me, as one who had circulated 
that report, and Baid that to silence him, he one day, took up a 
pamphlet-copy of the veto-Message and holding it before him asked 
him to look at it closely and see whether he could not discover my 
likeness on every page. 

The impression among the General's Western friends, that he 
would destroy his popularity by a veto, was universal and prevailed 
also extensively among those from the North. The Pennsylvania 
members generally were rampant in their opposition and most of 
them voted for the Bill after the veto was interposed. Being with 
him to a very late hour the night before the Message was sent up, he 
asked me to take an early breakfast with him, as Congress was on 
the point of breaking up, and would therefore meet at an early hour. 
In the morning I found our friends, Grundy, Barry, Eaton,* and 
Lewis • at the table, wearing countenances to the last degree despond- 

1 Samuel P. Carson. 

* Felix Grundy, William T. Barry, and John H. Baton. 

•William B. Lewis. 



326 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

ing, occasioned, as I well knew, by their convictions of the injurious 
effects that must result from the step about to be taken. On going 
up stairs to his office, he leaning on my arm on account of his ex- 
treme physical weakness, I observed that our friends were frightened. 
•Yes," he replied, — ''but don't mind that! The thing is here" 
(placing his hand on the breast-pocket of his coat)' 9 and shall be 
sent up as soon as Congress convenes." 

It was sent up that morning and a scene ensued that baffled all our 
calculations. If there was any sentiment among our opponents which 
we knew to be universal, before the reading of the wfo-Message, it 
was that it would prove the political death warrant of the Adminis- 
tration and we were prepared to hear denunciations against the vio- 
lence and destructive effects of the measure and the reckless insult 
offered to the House by the President in sending it But no such 
clamor arose, and the first and principal objection that was made 
against the Message, when the reading was finished, and which was 
persevered in to the end, was that it was " an electioneering docu- 
ment" sent to Congress for political effect ! — and that the "hand of 
the magician" was visible in every line of it ! 

It was indeed received with unbounded satisfaction by the great 
body of the disinterested and genuine friends of the Administration 
throughout the Country. At a public dinner given by the republi- 
cans of Norfolk to John Randolph on the occasion of his departure 
for Russia, the following toast was drunk standing and with cheers 
three times three: — "The rejection of the Maysvitte Road Bill it 
falls upon the ears like the music of other days." Some, whose 
friendship for the Administration, if not completely alienated, had 
certainly been greatly abated, felt obliged to praise it Col. Hayne, 
of South Carolina, at the great Charleston dinner given to inaugu- 
rate nullification, and thro 9 its means to put that Administration to 
the severest trial that any had ever been exposed to in our Country 
spoke of the veto as "the most auspicious event which had taken 
place in the history of the Country for years past" I refer but to 
one other of those acceptable exhibitions of public feeling which per- 
vaded the Union, tho' less imposing in form not less gratifying. 
Col. Ramsay, 1 one of the Representatives from Pennsylvania, an 
excitable but honest man and true patriot, irritated almost beyond 
endurance by the veto, followed us from the Capitol to the White 
House, after the close of the session, and, presuming on the strength 
of his friendship for the General, fairly upbraided him for his 
course. The latter bore his reproaches, for such they really were 
altho' intended only as a remonstrance which he thought allowable 
in a devoted friend, with a degree of mildness that excited my ad- 
miration, begging the dissatisfied representative to say no more upon 

1 Robert Ramsay. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN VAN BURBN. 827 

the subject until he had seen his constituents and venturing to 
prophesy that he would find them pleased with the veto. The 
worthy Pennsylvanian received the intimation as an additional in- 
jury and parted from us in an exceedingly had humor. A short 
time afterwards, as I was one day approaching the President he 
held up to me in an exultant manner, a paper which proved to be 
a letter from our good friend Ramsay in which he announced the 
confirmation of the General's prediction and acknowledged that, in 
that case at least, the latter had known his constituents better than 
he himself had known them. 

And yet this measure was but the entering wedge to the course 
of action by which that powerful combination known as the In- 
ternal Improvement party was broken asunder and finally an- 
nihilated. I have already given an extract from the President's 
Message descriptive of its ramifications and extent at the period of 
the veto. The power which a combined influence of that descrip- 
tion, addressing itself to the strongest passion of man's nature and 
wielded by a triumvirate of active and able young statesmen as a 
means through which to achieve for themselves the glittering prize 
of the Presidency, operating in conjunction with minor classes of 
politicians, looking in the same general direction and backed by a 
little army of cunning contractors, is capable of exerting in com- 
munities so excitable as our own, can easily be imagined. The 
danger in offending and the difficulty of resisting such an influence 
were equally apparent. The utmost prudence was required in re- 
spect to the ground that should be occupied by the President in the 
first step that he was to take in the prosecution of the great reform 
that he had in view. His own past course increased the necessity 
of great circumspection at the start The votes he had given for 
the survey-bill and for the appropriation in aid of the Chesapeake 
and Delaware Canal, with his letter to the Governor of Indiana, 
written during the canvass and referring to those votes as exponents 
of his opinions were fresh in the recollections of the People. His 
name was, in very deed, a tower of strength, but prudence as well 
as sound principle dictated that their partiality should not be put 
to an unreasonable test by the ground he now took, on an occasion 
of intense interest, in a document which, as we all well knew, would 
have to pass through the severest scrutiny. 

In view of this state of things the veto-Message assumed the 
following positions : — 

1st. The construction of Internal Improvements under the author- 
ity of the Federal Government was not authorized by the Consti- 
tution. 

MS. Ill, p. 170. 



828 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

2nd. Altho' the true view of the Constitution in regard to the 
power of appropriation was probably that taken in Madison's Re* 
port concerning the alien and sedition laws, by which it was con- 
fined to cases where the particular measure which the appropriation 
was designed to promote was within the enumerated authorities 
vested in Congress, yet every Administration of the Government 
had, in respect to appropriations of money only adopted in practice 
(several cases of which were mentioned) a more enlarged construc- 
tion of the power. This course, it was supposed, had been so long 
and so extensively persisted in as to render it difficult, if not im- 
practicable, to bring the operations of the Government back to the 
construction first referred to/ The Message nowhere admitted that 
the more enlarged construction which had obtained so strong a- 
foothold, was a true exposition of the Constitution, and it conceded 
that its restriction against abuse, viz., that the works which might 
be thus aided should be "of a general, not local — National, not 
State" character, a disregard of which distinction would of neces- 
sity lead to the subversion of the Federal System, was unsafe, arbi- 
trary in its nature and inefficient. 

3d. Although he might not feel it to be his duty to interpose the 
Executive veto against the passage of Bills appropriating money 
for the construction of such works as were authorized by the States, 
and were National in their character the President did not wish 
to be understood as assenting to the expediency of embarking the 
General Government in a system of that kind at this time; but he 
could, never give his approval to a measure having the character of 
that under consideration, not being able to regard it in any other 
light than as a measure of a purely local character; or if it could 
be considered National no further distinction between the appro* 
priate duties of the General and State Governments need be at- 
tempted, for there could be no local interest that might not, under 
such a construction, be denominated, with equal propriety, Na- 
tional. 

His veto was placed on that specific ground, and the rest of the 
Message was principally taken up in discussing the propriety and 
expediency of deferring all other action upon the subject, even of 
appropriations for National works until the Public Debt should be 
paid and amendments of the Constitution adopted by which such 
appropriation could be protected against the abuses to which they 
were exposed. 

These positions, fairly interpreted, were not inconsistent with the 
votes which Gen. Jackson had given in the capacity of Senator dur- 
ing the Canvass of 1823-4. The Survey-Bill was in terms limited 
to roads and canals which the President should deem of National 
importance. Mr. Calhoun's Bonus Bill proposed to set aside a fund 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTI*.' YAK BTJREN. &29 

for the construction of roads and canals, and still both he and Mr. 
Clay contended that the constitutional question did not arise before 
the specific bill was presented for the action of Congress. With 
much more propriety could that be said of the Survey Bill. The 
appropriation in aid of the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal was 
sustained on the ground of its being a work of national importance 
and the Maysville veto did not expressly deny the constitutionality 
of such appropriations. Whether that was one of such a character 
or not was a question in respect to which, in the absence of consti- 
tutional regulation, Gen. Jackson was obliged to exercise his discre- 
tion. He did so in that case and voted for the Bill — he did the same 
thing in the case of the Maysville Road and vetoed it. The pro- 
piety of the veto was therefore reduced to the single question as to 
the character of the road — was it national or local? — an issue on 
which his opponents could not sustain themselves for a moment. 
He was thus enabled to go to the Country with his views in favor 
of suspending action even upon works of national importance until 
the public debt was paid and constitutional amendments obtained, 
to guard against otherwise unavoidable abuses, unembarrassed by 
side issues of any description other than that to which I have last 
referred and upon which his position was absolutely impregnable. 

It was the consciousness of the soundness of the positions taken 
in the wto-Message that produced the raving debates in the House 
when it was first presented to that body, and it was doubtless a 
similar consciousness that forced Mr. Clay in a speech on the Mes- 
sage delivered at Cincinnati, shortly after its appearance, so far to 
forget the proprieties of his position to compare the Message to 
the paper sent by George III, during his insanity, which, tho' it 
had his name attached to it, could not be said to have spoken his 
sentiments, and to exclaim that he could not read it without hav- 
ing the name of Talleyrand! Tallyrand! Talleyrand! continually 
recurring to his mind. He could hardly have been aware of the 
weight of testimony he bore in the latter exclamation in favor of 
the Message on the score of talent and power. The reader will 
judge for himself as to the degree of success with which the views 
sketched in my note to the President of the 4th of May, before given, 
were carried out. 

A great step had been taken towards removing from Congress an 
incubus which had for years weighed upon it in the shape of unr 
availing effort to establish a useful system of internal improvement 
under its auspices and by its authority. Whilst the time of that 
body was wasted in unfruitful debates and its capacity for use- 
fulness in the channels designed for its action by the Constitution 
impaired, every thinking and fair minded man saw that to es- 
tablish such a system previous amendments to the Constitution were 



830 AIXERICAKT HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION 

absolutely indispensable. A step in advance had been taken but 
we knew very well that more was to be done and that other posi- 
tions must be assumed to make that step available, and we devoted 
ourselves without delay to a consideration of their character. Neither 
of us laboring, it is but truth to say it, under vain conceits of 
our self-sufficiency, I with the approbation of the President, sought 
the best counsel that the Country afforded by opening a corre- 
spondence on the subject with Mr. Madison. In his recent veto- 
Message, the President had given a construction to Mr. Madison's 
veto of Mr. Calhoun's Bonus Bill, of which we thought it fairly 
suspectible altho' not with absolute certainty of our position. I 
am free to admit that a floating impression existed in my mind 
throughout that Mr. Madison might, altho' I could not well see 
how, disavow that construction. I sincerely wished for such a 
result and the wish was doubtless father to the thought I there- 
fore sent him an early copy of the General's veto-Message, in a 
way best calculated to elicit an expression of his views upon the 
point without asking them. His first note shews the result and 
as the residue of the correspondence explains the reasons for its 
continuance I will make no apology for inserting all the letters 
here. What such a man as Mr. MAdison has said upon a subject of so 
much importance cannot be too carefully preserved and there is 
clearly no reason for a continuance of the confidence in which hjs 
letters were written and which has hitherto been observed. 

Fbom Mb. Madison. 1 

J. Madison has duly received the copy of the President's Message forwarded 
by Mr. Van Buren. In returning his thanks for this polite attention, he re- 
grets the necessity of observing that the Message has not rightly conceived 
the intention of J. M. in his Veto in 1817 on the Bill relating to Internal 
Improvements. It was an object of the Veto to deny to Congress as well as 
the appropriating power, as the executing and jurisdictional branches of it, 
and it is believed that this was the general understanding at the time, and 
has continued to be so, according to the references occasionally made to the 
document. Whether the language employed duly conveyed the meaning of 
which J. M. retains the consciousness is a question on which he does not 
presume ° to judge for others. 

Relying on the candor to which these remarks are addressed he tenders to 
Mr. Van Buren renewed assurances of his high esteem and good wishes. 

Montpelier, June 3, 1830. 

To Mb. Madison. 

Washington June 9th, 1880 
Dear Sib, 

I have shewn your note of the 3rd Inst to the President who requests me to 
express his regret that he has misconceived your intentions in regard to your 
veto on the Bill for Internal Improvements in 1817. As far as opportunities 

1 Madison's draft is in the Madison Papers In the Library of Congress. 
• MS. Ill, p. 175. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN VAN BUREN. 881 

place It In his power to correct the error In Informal conversation be will 
not fall to do so, and should an occasion occur on which a more formal cor- 
rection would be pertinent It will give him pleasure to make it, if advised 
that that course would be preferred by you. 

Win you excuse me for troubling you again upon this Interesting and per- 
plexing subject? I am deeply sensible of the necessity of repose to one of 
your advanced age and of the claims to its enjoyment which are founded 
upon your past usefulness, but deriving confidence from your ready ac- 
quiescence In my wishes on a former occasion I venture to Intrude once 
more upon your retirement You have had some experience of the injurious 
tendency of legislation upon this subject by Congress, but no one can have 
an idea of the demoralising effect which for years past it has had upon 
their proceedings without being on the spot and forming a part of the Gov- 
ernment The President is deeply impressed with the importance of arrest- 
ing its further progress and very willing to incur whatever responsibility he 
can properly take upon himself to promote that object You have seen the 
ground he has taken and can appreciate fully the position he occupies. It is 
unnecessary for me to say to you that the matter cannot rest here but that 
It will be necessary for him to go farther at the next session of Congress. 

Among the points which will then come up for consideration will be the 
following : 1st, the establishment of some rule which shall give the greatest prac- 
ticable precision to the power of appropriating money for objects of general 
concern ; 2d, a rule for the government of grants for light houses and the im- 
provement of harbors and rivers which will avoid the objects which it is de- 
sirable to exclude from the present action of Government and at the same 
time to do what Is imperiously required by a due regard to the general com- 
merce of the Country; 86% the expediency of refusing all appropriations for 
internal improvements, (other <han those of the character last referred to if 
they may be so called,) until the national debt is paid, as well on account of 
the sufficiency of that motive, as to give time for the adoption of some con- 
stitutional or other arrangement by which the whole subject may be placed on 
better grounds, — an arrangement which will never be seriously attempted as 
long as scattering appropriations are made and the scramble for them thereby 
encouraged ; 4th, the strong objections which exist against subscriptions to the 
stock of private companies by the United States. 

There is no man more willing to hear with patience and to weigh with candor 
the suggestions of those in whom he has confidence than the President The 
relation in which I stand to him will give him the right to be furnished with 
my views upon these matters and I need not say how much I would be bene- 
fitted In forming and fortified In sustaining them by your friendly advice. I 
ask it In confidence and will receive whatever your leisure and Inclination may 
Induce you to say upon the subject under the same obligation. 

Wishing to be kindly remembered to Mrs. Madison, I am dear Sir, 

Very truly yours, 1 

Madison to Van Buben. 9 

Montpellier, July 5, 1830. 

Deab Sib. — Your letter of June Oth came duly to hand. On the subject of 

the discrepancy between the construction put by the message of the President 

on the veto of 1817, and the Intention of Its author, the President will of 

course consult his own view of the case. For myself, I am aware that the 

1 Van Buren's draft is in the Van Buren Papers, the letter sent la In the Madison 
Papers. 
» Copies are In both the Madison and Van Buren Papers. 



882 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

document must speak for itself, and that that intention can not be substituted 
for the established rules of interpretation. 

The several points on which you desire my ideas are necessarily vague, and 
the observations on them can not well be otherwise. They are suggested by 
a respect for your request, rather than by a hope that they can assist the 
object of it. 

" Point 1. The establishment of some rule which shall give the greatest prac- 
ticable precision to the power of appropriating money to objects of general 
concern." 

The rule must refer, it is presumed, either to the objects of appropriation, 
or to the apportionment of the money. 

A specification of the objects of general concern in terms as definite as may 
ne, seems to be the rule most applicable; thus Roads simply, if for all the 
uses of Roads; or Roads, post and military, if limited to those uses; or post 
roads only, if so limited: thus, Canals, either generally, or for specified uses: 
so again Education, as limited to a university, or extended to seminaries of 
other denominations. 

As to the apportionment of the money, no rule can exclude Legislative dis- 
cretion but that of distribution among the States according to their presumed 
contributions; that Is, to their ratio of Representation In Congress. The ad- 
vantages of this rule are its certainty, and Its apparent equity. The objec- 
tions to It may be that, on one hand, it would Increase the comparative agency 
of the Federal Government, and, on the other that the money might not be 
expended on objects of general concern ; the Interests of particular States not 
happening to coincide with the general interest In relation to improvements 
within such States. 

" 2. A rule for the Government of Grants for Light-houses, and the improve- 
ment of Harbours and Rivers, which will avoid 'the objects which it is desirable 
to exclude from the present action of the Government; and at the same time 
do what is imperiously required by a regard to the general commerce of the 
Country." 

National grants In these cases seem to admit no possible rule of discrimina- 
tion, but as the objects may be of a national or local character. The difficulty 
lies In all cases where the degree and not the nature of the case, Is to govern. 
In the extremes, the judgment is easily formed ; as between removing obstruc- 
tions in the Mississippi, the highway of commerce for half the nation, and a 
like operation, giving but little extension to the navigable use of a river, itself 
of confined use. In the intermediate cases, legislative discretion, and, conse- 
quently, legislative errors and partialities are unavoidable. Some controul is 
attainable In doubtful cases, from preliminary investigations and reports by 
disinterested and responsible agents. 

In defraying the expense of internal improvements, strict justice would re- 
quire that a part only and not the whole should be borne by the nation. Take 
for examples the Harbours of New York and New Orleans. However important 
in a commercial view they may be to the other portions of the Union, the States 
to which they belong must derive a peculiar as well as a common advantage 
from improvements made in them, and could afford therefore to combine with 
grants from the common treasury, proportional contributions from their own. 
On this principle it is that the practice has prevailed in the States (as it has 
done with Congress) of dividing the expense of certain Improvements, between 
the funds of the State, and the contribution of those locally interested in them. 

Extravagant and disproportionate expenditures on Harbours, Light-houses 
and other arrangements on the Seaboard ought certainly to be controuled as 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN VAX BUREN. 833 

much as possible. But it seems not to be sufficiently recollected, that in rela- 
tion to our foreign commerce, the burden and benefit of accommodating and 
protecting it necessarily go together, and, must do so as long and as far as the 
public revenue continues to be drawn thro* the Customhouse. Whatever gives 
facility and security to navigation, cheapens Imports; and all who consume 
them wherever residing are alike interested in what has that effect. If they 
consume they ought as they now do to pay. If they do not consume, they do 
not pay. The consumer in the most inland State derives the same advantage 
from the necessary and prudent expenditures for the security of our foreign 
navigation, as the consumer in a maritime State. Our local expenditures have 
not of themselves a correspondent operation. 

" 3. The expediency of refusing all appropriations for Internal improvements 
(other than those of the character last referred to, If they can be so called) 
until the national debt is paid; as well on account of the sufficiency of that 
motive, as to give time for the adoption of some constitutional or other arrange- 
ment by which the whole subject may be placed on better grounds ; an arrange- 
ment which will never be seriously attempted as long as scattering appropria- 
tions are made, and the scramble for them thereby encouraged." 

The expediency of refusing appropriations, with a view to the previous dis- 
charge of the public debt, Involves considerations which can be best weighed 
and compared at the focus of lights on the subject A distant view like mine 
can only suggest the remark, too vague to be of value, that a material delay 
ought not to be incurred for objects not both Important and urgent; nor such 
objects to be neglected in order to avoid an immaterial delay. This is, Indeed, 
but the amount of the exception glanced at in your parenthesis. 

The mortifying scenes connected with a surplus revenue are the natural off- 
spring of a surplus; and cannot perhaps be entirely prevented by any plan of 
appropriation which allows a scope to Legislative discretion. The evil will 
have a powerful controul in the pervading dislike to taxes even the most indi- 
rect The taxes lately repealed are an index of it. Were the whole revenue 
expended on Internal Improvements drawn from direct taxation, there would be 
danger of too much parsimony rather than too much profusion at the Treasury. 

"4. The strong objections which exist against subscriptions to the stock of 
private companies by the United States." 

The objections are doubtless in many respects strong. Yet cases might 
present themselves which might not be favored by the State, whilst the con- 
curring agency of an Undertaking Company would be desirable In a national 
view. There was a time it is said when the State of Delaware, influenced by 
the profits of a Portage between the Delaware and Chesapeake, was unfriendly 
to the Canal, now forming so important a link of internal communication be- 
tween the North and the South. Undertakings by private companies carry with 
them a presumptive evidence of utility, and the private stakes in them, some 
security for economy in the execution, the want of which is the bane of public 
undertakings. Still the importunities of private companies cannot be listened 
to with more caution than prudence requires. 

I have, as you know, never considered the powers claimed for Congress over 
roads and canals, as within the grants of the Constitution. But such improve- 
ments being justly ranked among the greatest advantages and best evidences of 
good government ; and having, moreover, with us, the peculiar recommendation 
of binding the several parts of the Union more firmly together, I have always 
thought the power ought to be possessed by the common Government; which 
commands the least unpopular; and most productive sources of revenue, and 
can alone select Improvements with an eye to the national good. The States 



836 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

debt is paid* and that; In the meanwhile, some general role for the action of 
the Government In that respect ought to be established. 

These suggestions were not necessary to the decision of the question then 
before me; and were, I readily admit, intended to awake the attention and 
draw forth the opinions and observations of our constituents, upon a subject 
of the highest importance to their Interests, and one destined to exert a power- 
ful Influence upon the future operations of our political system. I know of 
no tribunal to which a public man in this Country, In a case of doubt and 
difficulty, can appeal with greater advantage or more propriety than the judg- 
ment of the people; and although I must necessarily, in the discharge of my 
official duties, be governed by the dictates of my own judgment* I have no de- 
sire to conceal my anxious wish to conform, as far as I can, to the views of 
those for whom I act 

All irregular expressions of public opinion are of necessity attended with 
some doubt as to their accuracy; but, making full allowance on that account, 
I can not, I think, deceive myself In believing that the acts referred to, as 
well as the suggestions which I allowed myself to make, in relation to their 
bearing upon the future operations of the Government, have been approved 
by the great body of the people. That those whose Immediate pecuniary In- 
terests are to be affected by proposed expenditures should shrink from the ap- 
plication of a rule which prefers their more general and remote interests to 
those which are personal and immediate, is to be expected. But even such 
objections must, from the nature of our population, be but temporary in their 
duration; and if it were otherwise our course should be the same; for the 
time is yet, I hope, far distant when those intrusted with power to be exercised 
for the good of the whole will consider it either honest or wise, to purchase 
local favors at the sacrifice of principle and general good. 

So understanding public sentiment and thoroughly satisfied that the best in- 
terests of our common Country Imperiously require that the course which 
I have recommended in this regard should be adopted, I have, upon the most 
mature consideration, determined to pursue it. 

It is due to candor as well as to my own feelings that I should express the 
reluctance and anxiety which I must at all times experience in exercising the 
undoubted right of the Executive to withhold his assent from bills on other 
grounds than their constitutionality. That this right should not be exercised 
on slight occasions, all will admit It is only in matters of deep Interest, when 
the principle involved may be justly regarded as next in Importance to infrac- 
tions of the Constitution itself, that such a step can be expected to meet with 
the approbation of the people. Such an occasion do I conscientiously believe the 
present to be. In the discharge of this delicate and highly responsible duty I 
am sustained by the reflection that the exercise of this power has been deemed 
consistent with the obligations of official duty by several of my predecessors; 
and by the persuasion too, that whatever liberal institutions may have to fear 
from the encroachments of Executive power, which has been every where the 
cause of so much strife and bloody contention, but little danger is to be appre- 
hended from a precedent by which that authority denies to itself the exercise of 
powers that bring in their train influence and patronage of great extent ; and 
thus excludes the operation of personal interests, every where the bane of 
official trust, I derive, too, no small degree of satisfaction from the reflection, 
that if I have mistaken the Interests and wishes of the people, the Constitution 
affords the means of soon redressing the error, by selecting for the place their 
favor has bestowed upon me a citizen whose opinions may accord with their 
own. I trust, in the mean time, the Interests of the nation will be saved from 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MABTTN VAN BUKEN. 885 

with a regret that I cannot make yon a more Important communication, I 
renew the assurances of my great esteem and my cordial salutations. 

Jambs Madison. 
Mr. Yah Bubs*. 

Having carefully observed the course of public opinion and being 
satisfied that it had settled down decidedly in favor of the policy 
of postponing all appropriations for works of internal improvement, 
even for such as might fairly be deemed of a national character 
until the public debt was paid,- as he had suggested in his veto- 
Message, the President was prepared to take his own position upon 
that point in his second annual Message in December of the same 
year. 9 Justice cannot be done to him without accompanying this 
view of those important transactions with explanations which might, 
under other circumstances be considered unnecessary. He first took 
notice of the vote he had given, whilst Senator, in favor of the Chesa- 
peake and Delaware Canal of which he spoke as follows : 

In speaking of direct appropriations I mean not to Include a practice which 
has obtained to some extent, and to which I have, in one Instance, In a different 
capacity, given my assent — that of subscribing to the stock of private associa- 
tions. Positive experience, and a more thorough consideration of the subject, 
have convinced me of the Impropriety as well as inexpediency of such Invest- 
ments. AU Improvements effected by the funds of the nation for general use 
should be open to the enjoyment of all our fellow citizens, exempt from the 
payment of tolls, or any° imposition of that character: The practice of thus 
mingling the concerns of the Government with those of the States or of Indi- 
viduals Is inconsistent with the object of its institution, and highly impolitic. 
The successful operation of the federal system can only be preserved by confin- 
ing it to the few and simple but yet important objects for which it was designed. 
* * * The power which the General Government would acquire within the 
several States by becoming the principal stockholder In corporations, con- 
trolling every canal and each sixty or hundred miles of every Important road, 
and giving a proportionate vote in all their elections, is almost Inconceivable 
and, in my view, dangerous to the liberties of the people. 

Having thus acknowledged with characteristic frankness the 
change which his opinion had undergone on the point referred to, he 
spoke with the same freedom of the general subject, and said, among 
other things: 

In my objections to the bills authorizing subscriptions to the Maysvllle and 
Rockvllle Road Companies, I expressed my views fully in regard to the power 
of Congress to construct roads and canals within a State, or to appropriate 
money for improvements of a local character. I, at the same time, Intimated my 
belief that the right to make appropriations for such as were of a national 
character had been so generally acted upon and so long acquiesced in by the 
Federal and State Governments, and the constituents of each, as to Justify 
its exercise on the ground of continued nnd uninterrupted usage; but that It 
was nevertheless, highly expedient that appropriations, even of that character, 
should, with the exception made at the time, be deferred until the national 

* Madison'* draft la in tha Madlaon Papers. » 1880. * If S. Ill, p. 180. 



338 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

Improvements by the Federal Government was — there is every 
"reason to believe — forever withdrawn from the action of that Gov- 
ernment. Not that any such consequence can be attributed to the 
opinion or action of any man who may for a season be placed at 
its head, for no one conversant with human nature or with the course 
of political events will ever expect with confidence such a result 
from such causes. The opinion I have expressed is founded on 
more potent considerations. Every effort in the direction referred 
to was certainly suspended for eleven years and other fields of exer- 
tion in behalf of such works were soon found and occupied. To 
a people as impulsive as ours eleven years of denial and delay are 
almost equivalent to an eternal veto, and those who maintained 
that the passion for Internal Improvements, so rampant at the seat 
of the Federal Government at the commencement of the Jackson 
administration, would seek other and constitutional directions for 
its gratification, if that could be perseveringly denied to it there 
for even a shorter period, stand justified by the event. All of the 
works of that character which it was ever hoped might prove safe 
and useful to the Country, have been made by or under the au- 
thority of the State Governments. All motive for enlisting the 
interference of the National Government for generations to come, 
has thus been superseded. In the cases of wild and unprofitable or 
speculative projects, losses, to the extent of many millions, which 
the Treasury would have sustained if these works had been con- 
structed under Federal authority, have fallen with a weight dimin- 
ished by the vigilance inspired by private interest and by State 
supervision, upon the shoulders of those who expected to make money 
by them, instead of emptying the national coffers, to be recruited 
by taxes collected from the mass of the people who would have de- 
rived no exclusive advantages from their success. 

We have had two administrations of the Federal Government whose 
politics were of the Governmental-improvement stamp, but none 
of the old projects have been brought forward — resolutions in favour 
of Internal Improvements have been dropped from the partisan plat- 
forms of the party that suported those administrations. The theory 
and the practice — except as to cases not involved in the general ques- 
tion — are both exploded as regards the action of the Federal Gov- 
ernment and the signal advantages which the Country has reaped 
from this result so far as they have not been now ref ered to will be 
elsewhere noticed. 

* MS. Ill, p. 185. 



CHAPTER XXVI. 

I have once or twice incidentally mentioned, an affair, under the 
name of the Eaton-imbroglio, which, tho' in no proper sense politi- 
cal, exerted perhaps a more injurious influence upon the management 
of public affairs than could be ascribed to any of the disturbing ques- 
tions of the excited period of which I write. Breaking out at the 
very commencement of the administration, kept alive by feelings of 
the bitterest character and soon directed to the acomplishment of 
political as well as personal objects it maintained for two years a 
foothold at the seat of the Federal Government, a plague to social 
intercourse, destructive in many instances of private friendship, de- 
ranging public business and for a season, at least, disparaging the 
character of the Government. Except perhaps the disreputable 
scenes that were witnessed in England, occasioned by the quarrel 
between George IV and his unfortunate Queen, there has not been 
seen in modern times so relentless and so reckless a foray upon all 
those interests as that to which I refer. There, as here, time has 
somewhat effaced the remembrance of scenes which, as a general rule, 
are never so well treated as when they are delivered over to its de- 
vouring tooth. That this should be the common fate of transactions 
which reflect no credit on the living or the dead is certainly desirable, 
but the gratification of such a wish is subject at all times to well set- 
tled and unavoidable restrictions. History asserts her right — always 
within the limitations of truth and decency — to make the follies, 
vices, and crimes of an epoch, as well as its virtues and meritorious 
achievements subservient to her high calling, which is to warn succ- 
eeding generations as well as to attract them by examples; and indi- 
viduals who defend themselves against attempted implication in 
transactions which she must condemn or their friends who recognise 
the duty of protecting their memories when they can no longer 
speak for themselves, have at all times a right to probe such affairs 
to their most secret depths in the pursuit of their objects. 

Most gladly would I pass this subject without notice if the circum- 
stances under which I write would permit me to do so. Altho' drawn 
against my will into the very focus of the excitement and from first 
to last exposed to its fury, I at no time regarded it with any other 
feelings than those of pain and disgust; pain produced by daily 
witnessing the anguish it caused to the President and disgust at the 
uses made of a private matter as to which the general community 
should have been left to the uninterrupted maintenance of its rights 

339 



340 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

and to the performance of its own duties. But standing in the rela- 
tion of closest friendship to General Jackson whilst he lived, and 
revering his memory I cannot be insensible to the unfavourable infer- 
ences and surmises which would inevitably follow, if whilst profess- 
ing to give a faithful account of his administration, I were to pass 
over in silence an affair of which the immediate effect was to break 
up his family circle, which in its consequences contributed largely to 
the dissolution of his Cabinet, and for the part he took in which he 
was arraigned before his constituents with much formality but with 
undisguised rancor. Reasons against such a course thus urgent in 
his case, have become imperative in regard to myself. Not only was 
my responsibility for what was done in the matter held by my oppo- 
nents to be at least co-extensive with that of the President, but in 
addition to attacks thro' the public press and on the floor of the 
Senate, which were visited upon both of us, a resolution was offered 
to the latter body by Mr. Holmes, a Senator from the State of Maine, 
for the appointment of a Committee to examine into my conduct in 
the premises with authority to send for persons and to compel the 
introduction of papers. It is true that the Senator offering it soon 
abandoned his resolution for reasons the utter frivolousness of which 
afforded abundant evidence of the unworthy motives by which he 
had been governed in its introduction — a demonstration quite unnec- 
essary to convince me, who had wintered and summered with him 
and well understood the stuff of which he was made, that such was 
its real origin and character. But his resolution stands upon the 
record and would if there were no other reasons effectually preclude 
me from omitting, in a sketch of my own life and times, a faithful 
account of my course in the matter and as much of the conduct of 
others as may be necessary to make that entirely intelligible. This 
I shall endeavour to do with proper respect to every consideration 
entitled to it and bearing upon the subject. 

The dissatisfaction caused by Gen. Jackson's Cabinet arrange- 
ments has been already referred to. This discontent was not con- 
fined to a particular class, neither was it in all cases, occasioned by 
precisely the same causes. Major Eaton was the son of a highly re- 
spectable lady of Tennessee, a widow at the time of which I write, 
much esteemed by Gen. Jackson, and her son also had strongly in- 
gratiated himself in his regard and was the author, I think, of the 
first formal history of the General's life. Major Lewis, Eaton's 
brother-in-law, had long been an intimate personal friend of the 
General, came with him to Washington and was for many years an 
inmate of his family. The cast of the Cabinet carried a suspicion 
to the minds of many of General Jackson's Tennessee friends, in- 
cluding a majority of the representatives of that State in Congress, 
that Eaton and Lewis had exerted a preponderating influence in its 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN VAN BUREN. 841 

construction. Their amor proprius was offended by this as they 
thought it evinced an undeserved preference, and jealousies and en- 
mities accordingly sprang up among his supporters in Tennessee 
many of which were never healed. Major Donelson, a nephew of 
Mrs. Jackson, whose wife was also her neice, and who had been from 
his infancy a member of the General's family — a man moreover of 
much more ability than he had credit for — partook largely of this 
feeling. The seeds of dissatisfaction with and opposition to the 
first act of the President were thus extensively and deeply sown not 
only in his own State but in his immediate household* 

There was another, perhaps I should say a higher class — a class 
at all events moved by higher considerations and looking to graver 
objects — which shared freely in the prevailing discontent. When 
these latter came to canvass the materials of which the new Cabinet 
was composed and the circumstances under which it was formed 
they thought they saw in them the evidence of a design on the part 
of ° the President-elect to counteract Presidential aspirations which 
his popularity had caused to be suspended, but the realization of 
which at the end of his first term, was confidently anticipated. 

The hostile feelings towards the new Cabinet, at its start, enter* 
tained by these branches of malcontents were, in variously modified 
forms, extended to the President himself and, in the sequel, espe- 
cially to the individual whose advancement was supposed — how cor* 
rectly will be hereafter seen — to have been the main object in its 
formation. It was not long before they found vent and thro' the 
same channel. Major Eaton, 1 the new Secretary of War had mar* 
ried a young widow 2 of much beauty and considerable smartness 
in respect to whose relations with himself before marriage, and 
whilst she was the wife of another, there had been unfavourable 
reports, A question was on that account raised as to her fitness 
for the social position otherwise due to the wife of a member of 
the Cabinet, her un worthiness alleged, with various degrees of pub- 
licity, and her exclusion from fashionable society insisted on. The 
President whilst willing and at all times avowedly ready to open 
the door to the severest scrutiny as to the facts, but confiding in 
her innocence with a sincerity that no man doubted, resented these 
doings, with the spirit and resolution natural to him on all occa- 
sions, but especially when feeling called upon to defend his friends. 
An issue was in this way and thus early formed between him and 
respectable, numerous and very powerful portions of his supporters 
which, independently of any question as to the wisdom, justice or 
propriety of the ground assumed on either side, could not possibly 

• MS. Ill, p. 190. 

'John H. Baton. 

- Margaret [Peggy] O'NeeJe, widow of Parser J. B. TlmberUke, U. B. N. 



342 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

fail to generate ill-will and speedily to sever the amicable relations 
which had until that time existed between them. 

Congress was fortunately upon the eve of its adjournment when 
this struggle commenced, and the President, the new 1 Cabinet, the 
officers of Government and the good people of Washington, or, per- 
haps more correctly speaking, the fashionable society of Washing- 
ton, with temporary visitors to the seat of Government, — not an in- 
considerable number at the commencement of a new administration — 
were the principal persons, before whom and by whom the question 
of Mrs. Eaton's eligibility was in the first instance discussed and 
acted upon. Beaching Washington some two months after the con- 
troversy had commenced, and my appointment having in no degree 
contributed to its occurrence, I was entirely uncommitted on my 
arrival, but finding the traces of the feud too plain not to be intelli- 
gible, in walks which it was my duty to frequent, and too disturbing 
in their character to be disregarded, I felt the necessity of deciding 
upon the course I ought to take in respect to it without unnecessary 
delay. After looking at the matter in every aspect in which I 
thought it deserved to be considered I decided, for reasons not now 
necessary to assign, to make no distinction in my demeanour towards, 
or in my intercourse with the families of the gentlemen whom the 
President had, with the approbation of the Senate, selected as my 
Cabinet associates, but to treat all with respect and kindness and not 
to allow myself, by my own acts, to be mixed up in such a quarrel. 
That others would do the latter office for me I thought not im- 
probable but that I could not help ; I could only take care, and that 
I resolved upon, that they should have no good grounds for their 
impeachments. A' very eligible opportunity was soon presented to 
make my intentions understood by Major Eaton and his particular 
friends. An office-holder under the new regime, of no mean degree, a 
clever fellow, in both the Yankee and the English sense of that word, 
who by his own bonhommie and the social popularity of his amiable 
family, by his generous tho' unostentatious hospitality, it is fair to 
add by his qualifications for his official duties and last, tho' not 
least, by his facile politics has succeeded in retaining his place (with 
a single and short interruption) for the thirty years that have 
passed since that day, paid me an early and somewhat significant 
visit. He sided warmly with the lady and with her husband and 
their friends and proceeded to enlighten me on the state of the 
controversy, with full descriptions of the sayings and doings on 
both sides of it. When he had freely unbosomed himself and well 
nigh exhausted his budget of news I asked him, with unusual seri- 
ousness to listen attentively to what I had to say to him. This, with 
evident surprise, but politely and kindly he agreed to do. I then 
remarked in substance that it had been my good fortune to be absent 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MABTIN V£ff BUREN. 848 

when the disturbance to which he alluded was first developed, that 
I was therefore in a better condition to control my feelings and 
actions in regard to it than most of my associates in the Govern- 
ment; that I sorely regretted its existence not only on account of its 
tendency to destroy the pleasures of social intercourse between many 
of us, but in view of what was far more important, its inevitable 
effect to mar the success and security of the administration ; that I 
knew nothing, nor had I heard of anything which would, in my 
opinion, require on my part the line of conduct that was pursued (as 
I was informed) by others in respect to Mrs. Eaton; that so long as 
I continued to view the matter in that light I would treat the Secre- 
tary of War and his family with the same respect and cordiality 
that I manifested towards the other members of the Cabinet and 
their families; that I should always stand ready to do anything in 
my power to allay and if possible eradicate the bad spirit that un- 
happily prevailed, but that I did not want to hear what was said 
and done in the matter and finally I desired that he should under- 
stand me as preferring not to talk about it 

My visitor was clearly disappointed by the character of my 
observations and seemed to think, altho' this idea was expressed 
obscurely and with becoming respect, that I evinced a degree of 
lukewarmness, in the matter, quite unexpected and perhaps not 
justified by the circumstances, or else a want of confidence in him. 
Understanding fully what was passing in his mind I first en- 
deavoured to disabuse him of any suspicion of that kind by avow- 
ing the favourable opinion I sincerely entertained of him person- 
ally, and then remarked that there were occasions when a man 
should reserve the exclusive right of judging in relation to his 
proper course and conduct, that the one now the subject of our 
conversation was of that nature, in my opinion, so far as I was 
at all concerned, and that my conclusions in regard to it were 
such as I thought due to my own self-respect and to my official 
position. A man of the world and of good sense himself, he ap- 
peared, as I thought, inclined to change his impressions and left 
me in good humor. 

I soon found, although nothing was said to me about it, that 
he had communicated our conversation to the Secretary of War 
and his immediate friends and especially to the President, from 
whose manner of treating the subject, whenever it was introduced 
in my presence, I inferred with pleasure his approbation of the 
course I had marked out for myself. 

The female members of the President's family were Mrs. Donel- 
son, the wife of his private Secretary, and her cousin, Miss Easton, 
both nieces of Mrs. Jackson and both excellent and highly esteemed 



844 AMKBICAK HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

ladies. Unaffected and graceful in manners, amiable and purely 
feminine in disposition and character, and bright and self possessed 
in conversation, they were fair representatives of the ladies of Ken- 
tucky and Tennessee. Both alas! are now no more. On an occa- 
sion when the name of Mrs. Eaton was accidentally and harmlessly 
introduced, and which was shortly after my interview above de- 
scribed, Mrs. Donelson, in the presence of her cousin, expressed her 
surprise that whilst almost every tongue in the city was canvassing 
that lady's merits and demerits die had never hoard me say any- 
thing upon the subject, a remark the tone of which rather than the 
substance conveyed, tho' gently, a complaint of my reserve. I was 
under an engagement which called me away and had only time to 
assure her that my silence had not arisen from an unwillingness to 
talk with them upon the subject and that with her permission I 
would do so upon the first favorable occasion. She took me at my 
word and we fixed the time when I was to call upon them for that 
purpose. When we met I was happy to be immediately relieved 
from the embarrassment that seemed inseparable from the ° parties 
to and the nature of our discussion, by a statement from Mrs. Don- 
elson of the grounds on which she justified the course she was pur- 
suing, which was a marked one and decidedly adverse to the lady 
in question. She spoke of her as possessing a bad temper and a 
meddlesome disposition and said that the latter had been so much 
increased by her husband's elevation as to make her society too dis- 
agreeable to be endured. She did not allude to any rumored impu- 
tations upon her fame; she might not have believed them, she might 
have omitted to notice them from motives of delicacy, or she might 
have thought allusion to them unnecessary on account of the suf- 
ficiency of those which she frankly acknowledged. Whether influ- 
enced by the one or the other motive I had no desire to inquire but 
took the matter up on the grounds on which she had placed it* For 
the sake of the discussion only, I agreed, after a moments reflec- 
tion, to admit that she was right in her views of Mrs. Eaton's char- 
acter and disposition and proceeded to impress upon her that al- 
though her reasons would excuse her from cultivating a close in- 
timacy with that lady they neither required nor would justify her, 
having regard to her position as the female head of her Uncle's 
family, to decline her society to the extent to which die had gone, 
and to caution her against being controlled in her course by persons 
whom she esteemed, and who were entitled to her respect and regard, 
but whose opinions upon that particular subject as I thought — in- 
deed, as I was certain — were unduly influenced. It is unnecessary 
to recapitulate my arguments: they were, in some respects, to her 



• MS. Ill, p, 195. 



/ 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MABTIN VAN BUBBN. 846 

at least, of a more serious character than any that she had previously 
allowed to be taken into her consideration ; they related to the situa- 
tion of her Uncle, whom she dearly loved, to the difficulties he had 
to contend with in the performance of his public duties, to the value 
he placed upon the peace and harmony of his family and the misery 
he suffered in seeing them destroyed by an affair in respect to which 
she certainly knew that he acted a sincere part, and to the extent 
to which her course sanctioned imputations of a graver character 
both upon the lady in question and upon himself for sustaining her, 
which were used by his enemies to injure him; Ac. &c. Before I 
had concluded Miss Easton who had sought to hide her emotions 
by gradually withdrawing herself from sight in the embrasure of 
the window, sobbed aloud, and I preceived that Mrs. Donelson be- 
sides being deeply agitated was also offended by my allusions to the 
probability that she had been unduly influenced by others upon 
such a subject. I rose from my seat, begging her to excuse whatever 
I might, under the excitement of the moment, have said to hurt her 
feelings, but perfectly satisfied that they were too far committed to 
be reached by anything I could urge, and I asked her permission to 
drop the subject. To this she assented, acknowledging that she had 
been momentarily ruffled by some of my remarks but assuring me 
that she was not offended with me. 

Our conference did not produce the slightest change in our sub- 
sequent relations. I stood, upon her invitation, as one of the spon- 
sors in baptism of her daughter, and her bearing towards me con- 
tinued respectful and kind to the day of her lamented death. 

I became convinced that Mrs. Donelson's earnest feelings on this 
occasion and in reference to this affair were less the effects of any- 
thing that she had heard or believed than of natural sympathy 
with her husband who was deeply interested in the quarrel — dif- ■ 
fering widely in opinion and feeling from his Uncle, the Presi- 
dent. As evidence of his great excitement at this time he after- 
wards told me that his dislike to me during the progress of these 
transactions had become so strong that " he could have drowned me 
with a drop of water." The relations between the General and 
his family grew every day more complicated and embarrassed until 
Major Donelson and his family quitted the White House and re- 
turned to Tennessee and his place as private Secretary was supplied 
by the appointment of Mr. N. P. Trist. 

It is a fact worthy of notice that altho' I was well acquainted 
with Major Donelson's views and sentiments in respect to the Eaton 
matters and his temporary leaning towards Mr. Calhoun and his 
friends I never suspected him of having entertained feelings of 
personal hostility towards myself until I received from him the 
letter which follows, many years afterwards and heard from his 



846 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

own lips the explanations of its import which I have given above. 
Desiring to offer some proof of my great respect and sincere es- 
teem to the General at parting and having the opinion of the Major's 
talents which I have already expressed, I decided, soon after my 
election to offer the latter a place in my Cabinet, and apprised them 
both of that intention. But having consulted a discreet and dis- 
interested friend from the same quarter of the Union in respect 
to the opinion likely to be formed there of the propriety of such a 
step I was led to doubt its expediency. My friend doubted neither 
the Major's capacity nor his integrity but thought that the appoint- 
ment would cause a surprise on the part of the public and would 
be regarded as an advancement disproportioned to the stations he 
had before occupied. I suggested the doubt to the General (who had 
not asked the appointment) and found that the same idea had 
passed through his own mind, but that he had not felt himself at 
liberty, under the circumstances, to suggest it. I immediately wrote 
to the Major that I had changed my mind, giving frankly the rear- 
son for it, and received in reply the following manly letter which, 
it will be seen, refers to the state of his feelings towards me during 
the first term of the General's Presidency, of which also, he after- 
wards spoke to me, as I have mentioned. 

Fbom Major Donklson. 

Nashville, February 21st 1837 
Deab Sib, 

Tour letter post marked the 8th inst. has just reached me. I shall set out 
In an hour or two for Washington under the hope of joining the General before 
he leaves the city and with the Intention of accompanying him to the Hermitage 
if I can be of service to him. 

I am grateful for the kindness manifested In your letter and no one can be 
more sensible than I am that the views it expresses respecting the policy of 
my being placed in a responsible situation near you are correct So strong 
were my convictions on this subject that I thought it my duty some eight or 
ten days ago to write such a letter to the General as would induce you, even if 
the judgment of mutual friends had created any doubt in your mind, to come 
to the decision which has been adopted. 

I cannot value too highly your friendship. It is the reward of a long 
acquaintance manifesting much forbearance and generosity on your part. I 
went to Washington full of misconception of your character and deeply biassed 
by many of the circumstances that attended the first four years of General 
Jackson's canvass for the Presidency/ It will be my endeavour to make some 
amends for the Injustice done you by doing all I can in my humble sphere 
to make your true character known to those who are willing to credit me. If 
in no other respect I may in this do some good to the Republican cause by 
adding to the number of those who will judge your administration impartially. 

Although I am about to start to Washington I prefer to send this letter by 

• This is a slip of the pen. The Intended reference was to the first four years of the 
General's Presidency. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN VAN BUBEN. 847 

the same stage, Imperfect as It Is as an expression of my grateful feelings 
towards you, to risking the chances of my not being able to see yon before the 
4th of March. 
Remember me kindly to your sons and believe me sincerely 

Your friend, 

A. J. Donelson 

The nature of the personal feelings which the state of things 
I have described was calculated to engender among those connected 
with the Government and residing at Washington may be easily 
inferred. All were more or less affected by it and it was under 
its adverse influences that we worked through the spring, summei 
and the first months of the autumn. Those feelings grew every 
day more and more bitter because they were to a great degree 
smothered as no opportunity was presented for their open indul- 
gence on the part of the leading officials. The entertainment given 
to the Diplomatic Corps in the spring was a dinner-party of gentle- 
men ° only and passed off without embarrassment. A Cabinet din- 
ner, to which the ladies of the families of the members who com- 
posed it would have to be invited was not even spoken of in my 
hearing before the month of November. That subject was then intro- 
duced by the President in one of our rides, which, when the weather 
permitted, were almost of daily occurrence and gradually length- 
ened as presenting the best opportunities for consultation left to us 
by the press of visitors and other preoccupations. He had, he said, 
been led to postpone his Cabinet dinners to so late a period by an 
undefined apprehension that the violent feelings of the members on 
both sides of the social problem out of which our difficulties had 
arisen, and of which he had not been suffered to remain ignorant, 
might lead to unavoidable acts on his part with which he thought 
it would be more difficult for an Administration to deal in its in- 
fancy, than after it had been some time under way and been 
allowed opportunities to advance itself in the favor of the people. 
Public business, he remarked, must always be attended to when the 
occasion for its performance arises, but with matters of ceremony, 
like that under consideration, he thought a greater latitude was 
allowable. As the session of Congress was however near at hand, 
when this matter should not rest undisposed of he thought the 
sooner it was entered upon the better. 

I had entertained similar apprehensions and had therefore omitted 
to allude to the subject in our familar conversations — embracing, 
from time to time, almost every other subject. But I never expected 
an outbreak upon the President's invitation, believing rather that the 
public explanations of the stand which I did not doubt was con- 

• MS. Ill, p. 200. 



348 AMERICAN HISTORICAL. ASSOCIATION. 

templated by a portion of the Cabinet would be reserved for mine, 
which would naturally follow. I expressed that opinion to him with 
much confidence and it was decided that his invitations should be 
forthwith sent out. 

There were no absentees at the President's Cabinet dinner, and 
no very marked exhibitions of bad feeling in any quarter, but there 
were nevertheless sufficient indications of its existence to destroy 
the festive character of the occasion and to make it transparently 
a formal and hollow ceremony. The President escorted the wife 
of the Secretary of the Treasury to the table and I gave my arm 
to Mrs. Donelson. The disposition of the others I have forgotten, 
but I will remember the care with which the arrangement of the 
parties was made. The general was as usual courteous and affable 
altho' suffering much from bad health and more from mortification 
at what was passing before his eyes. My young friend and partner 
for the entertainment summoned up spirits enough to call my atten- 
tion chiefly by glances, to the signs of the hour and following the 
movements of our host, we left the table with the ladies after which 
the company dispersed sooner than usual. I had intended to spend 
a few moments with the President after they were gone but soon 
perceived that the return he had received for all his sacrifices of 
old friendships and his unhesitating confrontal of enemies in the 
formation of the Cabinet which had just left him had overcome 
his feelings, and commending him to his pillow I also took my leave. 

The display I had witnessed would have been sufficient to put me 
on my guard in respect to my own contemplated entertainment if that 
had been needed. But without such warning I understood too well 
the motives which pointed to that occasion as one best adapted for a 
kind of semi-official notification of the rule by which some of my 
associates intended to be governed, to fail of circumspection in my 
movements. That they would decline my invitation I had no doubt, 
but whether in so doing, they would only assert and exercise their 
own rights without offense to me, or whether they would go farther 
could only 'be known by the sequel. It was my business to be pre- 
pared for either contingency. 

According to the established forms of society in Washington it 
would have been my office as host to give the highest position and 
the most marked attention to the wife of the Secretary of the Treas- 
ury, if no ladies were present except those of members of the Cabi- 
net. Mrs. Ingham was an excellent and estimable person, 'but excit- 
able and especially stirred up upon the vexed question which agi- 
tated the official and social circles of the Federal Capital. I was 
entirely willing to pay all the honors due to herself and to her posi- 
tion. [I was nevertheless quite confident that she would decline, 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MABTIN VAN BUREN 849 

and I was not disposed to make the vacancy occasioned by that event 
conspicuous by filling it with a lady of inferior rank.] 1 But Mr& 
Randolph, the widow of Gov. Thomas Mann Randolph, of Virginia, 
and the only surviving child of President Jefferson, in all respects 
one of the worthiest women of America, was then residing at 
Washington, a lady with whom and with her family consisting of an 
unmarried daughter and of Mr. and Mrs. N. P. Trist,' the latter also 
her daughter, my relations were cordial and intimate. I waited upon 
her in person, informed her of my intention to invite the Cabinet to 
dine with me and of my desire to combine with that official cere- 
mony an act of respect towards her which had been already too long 
delayed and requested her to name the day if she was willing to do 
me the honor to attend. 

She cheerfully agreed to my proposition, the day was fixed and 
the invitation extended to all the members of her family. I need 
scarcely say at least to those acquainted with the ways of Wash- 
ington, that it would have been quite impossible to prevent this 
proceeding on my part from becoming known without any agency 
of hers to the other invited guests who were thus apprised of my 
intention to give the precedence to Mrs. Randolph. As my dinner 
party was to be what in common parlance is called a ladies' dinner 
I was desirous that there should be no lack of ladies and anticipat- 
ing further declensions I invited several military gentlemen and 
their wives, who all attended. I was obliged to omit my highly 
esteemed and amiable friend the Commander in Chief, 2 because 
Mrs. M. (who was his second wife) had made herself — more to 
his amusement than annoyance, for he took such things lightly — 
a conspicuous party to the war which raged around us; but I re- 
member well the presence of the veterans, Hull and Chauncey and 
of Commodore Warrington 8 and of the wives of all three who 
were among the most agreeable as they were also the leading 
members of the society of Washington. 

Never- having been very careful or orderly in securing even my 
important papers and having especially exposed them by frequent 
changes of residence to be lost or mislaid, it is a curious instance 
of the accidental escape of such trifles from destruction that I 
have still in my possession the answers of the Secretary of the 
Navy and of the Attorney General to my invitation on this occa- 
sion. I suppose that they were originally kept in anticipation of 
a rupture of some sort in our relations. They lie before me as I 
write — recalling the minutiae of the scenes and events, great and 
small, of thirty years ago, which I am describing. 

1 Words in brackets were stricken out in the MS. 

*Maj.-Gen. Alexander Macomb. 

* Isaac Hull, Isaac Chauncey, and Lewis Warrington. 



850 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

Mr. Branch * writes that he " will avail himself of the honor of 
dining with Mr. Van Buren" on Ac. but that he is requested to 
say in behalf of Mrs. Branch and the young ladies that " circum- 
stances unnecessary to detail will deprive them of the pleasure " &c. 
Mr. Berrien presents his respects but pleads a " conditional engage- 
ment to leave the city" for his own declension and "her state of 
health' 9 for that of his daughter. According to the best of my 
recollection Mr. Ingham 2 accepted for himself, and Mrs. Ingham 
certainly declined. The other two members of the Cabinet, Major 
Eaton and Mr. Barry, 8 brought apologies from their wives, who 
were faithful allies and who it appeared had also resolved to remain 
behind their batteries. Thus it resulted that at the second Cabinet 
dinner of the season to which all the ladies of the family of its 
members were invited not one of them " assisted", and the party 
being freed from any kind of embarrassment their joy was uncon- 
fined. Mrs. Randolph especially manifested the greatest gratifica- 
tion, to the satisfaction of all my guests who reverenced her almost 
as much as I did; to come quite up to that mark required a more 
intimate knowledge of her admirable qualities than they had en- 
joyed opportunities to acquire. 

It may as well be said here as anywhere that neither in their 
answers to my successive invitations, nor in their angry correspond- 
ence with others nor in their excited appeals to the public, all of 
which I have now taken the trouble to re-peruse, did Messrs. Ingham 
and Berrien impute to me a blameable act or motive in respect to 
these transactions, although the latter papers were written under 
very excited feelings. These facts speak a language that cannot 
be misunderstood as to the sense in which they felt obliged to regard 
my whole demeanour in the affair now under consideration, and 
are more than sufficient to repel any unfavorable inferences that 
can be drawn from the introduction of a resolution of enquiry by 
a proverbially indecorous Senator — a resolution which even he aban- 
doned. Of Gov. Branch's course I am not quite so certain. On 
the evening before my resignation and that of Major Eaton were 
published, but when the facts were known, and indeed, after he 
had himself resigned, the President and myself were invited to 
attend the wedding of his daughter. He [Branch] took me apart, 
spoke of our resignations, acknowledged that he had been at first 
somewhat annoyed but was now entirely reconciled to the proceeding 
as the necessary result of causes which we could not control, and en- 
couraged me to hope that the whole matter would settle down as 

1 John Branch. * William T. Barry. 

•Samuel D. Ingham. ° MS. Ill, p. 205. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN YAK BUREN. 851 

quietly as all the letters of resignation and acceptance gave the public 
a right to expect. From that day to the present I have never seen 
him save once and for a moment. I heard, from time to time, of 
his making violent speeches against me and others, but I never saw 
them nor had I any desire to see them. I believed him to be an 
honest man and knew him to be in general influenced by just and 
generous impulses, but made of inflammable materials which were 
easily ignited by others; indeed, but a few days after our meeting 
and conversation referred to I heard that he had been thus excited. 
I knew, however, that he would say and do what was right when 
his feelings were sobered down, and in the course of time they ar- 
rived at that condition, he " conquered his prejudices " against Presi- 
dent Jackson, paid a brief visit to the White House during his 
second term, when X saw him for a few moments and exchanged 
respectful and kind salutations with him. Major Donelson, whose 
brother had married his daughter, informed me afterwards that 
the Governor had expressed to him the mortification he had expe- 
rienced in being treated with so much urbanity by a man of whom 
he had said so many hard things. I begged the Major to assure 
him that he need give himself no uneasiness on that head because 
I had never read his speeches and certainly would not think of 
doing so now. 

Determined to go thro' with the matter in hand, so far as I was 
myself concerned, and to havB done with it, I sent out invitations 
shortly after my Cabinet dinner and after Congress had assembled, 
for a large evening party. With some modifications' my official asso- 
ciates held to their previous course, and to add fuel to the flame a 
communication appeared in the Washington Journal newspaper, over 
the signature of " Tarquin," ( 1 ) charging me with an attempt, in 
conjunction with Sir Charles Vaughan, the British Minister, to force 
a person upon the society of Washington who was not entitled to its 
privileges and calling upon those who had been invited to resent the 
outrage by refusing to be present. The circles of Washington how- 
ever quite naturally declined to be instructed in the proprieties and 
moralities of social intercourse by a " Tarquin " and no party of the 
season was attended more numerously or enjoyed more hilariously. 

Suffering at the time from ill-health and much exhausted by the 
reception I availed myself of the moment when the attention of my 
guests was attracted by the commencement of dancing to retire to a 
sofa in a lower room for rest. I had not been there long before a 
friend entered and said, in a jocular tone, "Are you here, Sir ! — You 
ought to be above if you wish to prevent a fight 1 ", and answered my 
look erf enquiry by the information that Mrs. Eaton and Mrs. M. 
had jostled each other, doubtless accidentally, in the crowd, and that 



852 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

the collision had provoked manifestations of mutual resentment suffi- 
ciently marked to attract attention and to excite general remark. 
I received his story as a jest, which it probably was in a measure, and 
begged him to see fair play in my behalf and to leave me to my 
repose. 

I have described more particularly than they would appear to 
deserve these two entertainments, but for a brief season they ob- 
tained much consequence as incidents of a campaign in which social, 
political and personal feuds were bo mixed up that all of them 
were more or less affected by every movement, and the gossips had 
looked forward to the arrangement of my parties as the occasion 
and the field for a general engagement When they were over it was 
found that they had not materially contributed to the development 
of hostilities, and I confess that I experienced all the complacency 
naturally inspired by the consciousness of having passed unscathed 
thro' an ordeal as difficult and as severe as could be devised by a 
conspiracy of excited women and infuriated partisans. But the 
outbreak was not long delayed. At a ball given by the Russian 
Minister, Baron Krudener, in the absence of Mrs* Ingham, led Mrs. 
Eaton to supper, as ranking next to her, and Madame Huygens, the 
wife of the Dutch Envoy, was assigned to the Secretary of War. 
Madame Huygens was reported to have been highly offended by 
the arrangement and to have declared that she would retaliate* by 
giving a party to which Mrs. Eaton should not be invited and that 
her example would be followed by Messrs. Ingham, Branch and 
Berrien. Major Eaton was a man of moderate intellectual capacities, 
but justly distinguished for the kindness, generosity and unobtru- 
siveness of his disposition and demeanour. If he had done the wrong 
before his marriage which was imputed to him, as to which I knew 
and sought to know nothing, he had also done all that a man could 
do to remedy the evil and there was no reason even to suspect that 
the life of the lady after marriage was not, in that respect at least, 
free from reproach. A reverend gentleman had indeed carried 
rumors to the President to the effect that her conduct had been ex- 
ceptionable on a visit to the Northern cities. The General insisted 
that his informer should go immediately and sift the stories thor- 
oughly, assuring him that if his report sustained them by reliable 
facts no one would have reason to complain of his own course in 
the matter. The mission was accepted, the Cabinet, except Major 
Eaton was called together in the evening to hear the report but it 
was found to amount to nothing. 

A man of the temperament I have ascribed to Eaton was likely, 
under any circumstances, to have warm and sympathizing friends. 
The number in his case, was of course greatly increased by the pat- 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN VAH BUBBK. 353 

ronage at his disposal and by the favour with which he was re- 
garded by the President. These pressed upon the latter the Major's 
grievances with much earnestness and their appeals found favorable 
responses in his own breast. The alleged threat of Madame Huygens 
and the three partife which certainly followed— whether she actually 
threatened them or not — supplied ample and stirring materials for 
such complaints. The President sent for me at an early hour one 
morning and I weqt to him before breakfast. I found him deeply 
moved by communications that had been made to him on the pre- 
vious evening. His eyes were blood-shot and his appearance in other 
respects indicated that he had passed a sleepless night, as he indeed 
admitted had been literally the case. He was however unexcited in 
manner. The stories so often told of his violent and furious style 
on occasions of great anger or deep feeling, so far as my observation 
extended, had no other foundation than this that when he thought 
he could in that way best influence anybody to do his duty — of 
which I have given some instances and shall give others — he would 
assume an earnestness and an emphasis much beyond what he really 
felt. To me he always appeared most calm when he felt most in- 
tensely. On the occasion of his very narrow escape from assassina- 
tion, at the funeral of Warren R. Davis, I followed him to the White 
House, immediately after the rites of burial were concluded, and 
found him sitting with one of Major Donelson's children on his lap 
and conversing with General Scott, himself apparently the least 
disturbed person in the room. 

He presented, with deliberation and clearness, the reasons which 
led him to regard the proceedings to which I have referred as an 
attack upon himself designed to be made effectual thro 9 a combina- 
tion between members of his Cabinet and the wife of one of the 
Foreign Ministers, and stated, in the same manner, the course which 
he thought it would become him to pursue, which was — if his views 
should prove to be well founded to dismiss his own Ministers and 
to send Mr. Huygens his passports. 

His immediate object was to attend to the latter, and to that end 
he had sent for me to obtain my counsel and co-operation. My per- 
sonal relations with Chevalier and Madame Huygens were of a 
friendly and indeed intimate character. I had no reason to doubt 
that she felt hurt as was represented, by the occurrences at Baron 
Krudener's, but deemed it quite unlikely that she would have given 
expression to her feelings in the way which had been reported 
to the President. If, however, the information of the latter was 
correct, I could not for a moment doubt the propriety of the course 
he suggested, in that direction, and declared this opinion to him 
without hesitation. 

127488*— vol 2— 20— 28 . 



354 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION'. 

As soon as I reached my office I informed Chevalier Huygens 
by note that I desired to see him on business, and that as it would 
also be necessary to communicate with Madame Huygens I would 
call at his house at a named hour. For reasons, not necessary to 
be stated, they anticipated the object of my visit and received me 
with their usual kindness. After declining their invitation to the 
pipe and schiedam, notwithstanding the appropriateness of these 
preliminaries to a Dutch negotiation, I stated explicitly that the 
President disclaimed all right or desire to meddle with their social 
relations or with the question of whom they invited or whom they 
omitted to invite to their house, but that declarations had been at- 
tributed to Madame Huygens and communicated to the President 
which went beyond the exercise of the rights which belonged to them, 
and I described the impressions which the possibility of the cor* 
rectness of his information had made upon his mind. Madame 
Huygens assured me solemnly that she had never used the expres- 
sions attributed to her or any of similar import — that she had been 
too long connected with diplomatic life, and understood too well 
what belonged to her position, to meddle in such matters and that 
she had only pursued the path I conceded to her without advising 
with others or troubling herself about their course. The Chevalier 
united earnestly in the views she expressed, and avowed his con- 
viction of the accuracy of her recollections, and my mission was 
thus satisfactorily concluded. As we had no desire to pursue the 
enquiry further I reported the result to the President who received . 
the information with unaffected pleasure for he sympathized heartily 
with the respect and regard I entertained for the Dutch Minister 
and his estimable family. 

As the matter in some sense bore on our relations with a Foreign 
Government I thought it desirable that I should possess some evi- 
dence of the statement upon which I had proceeded, and so wrote 
to the President from whom I received immediately the following 

reply: 

From the President. 
( Private.) 
My Deab Sib 

Your note was rec*d, of this evening, when I had company, and so soon 
as they have left me I have hastened to reply — The story is this — Shortly 
after the party at Baron Krudener's it was stated that Madame H. was 
piqued at something that took place there and said she would give a party 
und would shew society that she did not recognize Mrs. E. as a fit associate 
and would not invite her to it The Heads of the Departments, say the 
gossips, would follow suit and Mrs. E. and the Major would be put out of 
society. This came to the ears of some members of Congress, and the attempt 
thus, by a Foreign Minister's family, to put out of society the family of a 

* MS. Ill, p. 210. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MABTIN YAK BUREN. 355 

member of my Cabinet was thought to be such an attack upon me, who had 
invited this member to come into it, that it aroused their feelings and the 
communication was made to me. The three parties that followed, given by the 
three Heads of Departments, were well calculated to give credit to the story 
of a combination headed by Madame H. to put Major Eaton and his family 
out of society and thereby to assail my character for Inviting him into it. These 
are the tales and I am happy Madame H. has stated they are not true as far 
as she is concerned. This is the substance. 

Yrs. 

Andrew Jackson. 
Jan'y 24th 1880. 

It was probably on the following day — certainly before the 27th 
of that .month, that I had, at his instance, a conference with the 
President upon the subject of the relations between him and the 
members of his Cabinet and the effect upon them of the matters 
related. Nothing was then done upon the subject, but a year and 
a half later and after the war had broken out between him and 
the portion of his Cabinet with whose course he had been offended, 
and I had left Washington and was awaiting the sailing of the 
packet from New York, he applied to me for my recollections of this 
branch of the general subject. I retained a copy of so much of my 
letter as related to it, which was never published, but will now be 
given at the proper place. According to my then recollection it 
appears that he showed me, at that interview, a paper contain- 
ing the basis of a communication which he intended to address 
to those gentlemen and that I expressed the opinion that he did not 
by it sufficiently guard himself against the imputation of enter- 
taining a desire to control the domestic and social intercourse of 
their families and advised a personal interview with them for which 
a paper more carefully constructed might be prepared and shewn 
to them in preference to a formal correspondence; that he dis- 
claimed any such intention or desire and agreed not only to such 
a modification of the paper but also to the substitution of a per- 
sonal interview for a letter. I added that such a paper as I rec- 
ommended may have been prepared by me on the spot from the 
materials before me, to be copied by him and reserved for the 
use contemplated — the course which I am quite confident was pur- 
sued. He then informed me that he had held some conversation 
on the subject with Col. Richard M. Johnson who was very desirious 
of an interview with the gentlemen alluded to before any communi- 
cation was made to them on his- part in the hope of being able 
to quiet existing difficulties. Knowing the Colonel's character and 
disposition perfectly and that with proved and undoubted courage 
he united qualities admirably adapted to the office of peace-maker, 
but that from his unsuspicious temperament he was not always 
as guarded in conversation as might be desirable in such a case, 



856 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

I begged the General, if he consented to his interference in the 
matter, to be careful that he should be fully possessed of his views, 
and suggested the propriety of reading to him, before he entered 
upon the business, the paper already prepared, and that the char- 
acter in which he acted should also be clearly understood. 

The Colonel had his conferences with Messrs. Ingham, Branch 
and Berrien, and the President his interview with them in which 
he spoke to them of the alleged combination and attempt to drive 
Major Eaton from the Cabinet and I always supposed* that he 
shewed them the paper referred to, but whether he did or did not 
do this they were all satisfied that he did not claim any such right 
as that which was described in it, and altho' the principal matter 
remained substantially on the footing on which it stood before, 
those gentlemen remained in the Cabinet a year and a half longer. 
During that period the Eaton affair was eclipsed in importance 
and soon divested of any agency in mischief or disturbance by 
two occurrences — Mr. Calhoun's prommciameiito and, some two 
or three months later, the resignations of Major Eaton and my- 
self, drawing after them the resignations of all the members of 
the Cabinet except Postmaster General Barry. The latter, altho' 
he adhered throughout to his friends, the Eatons, pursued the 
tenor of his way so unobtrusively and noiselessly as to give no 
offense to the other parties to the quarrel. 

The outbreak between the President and the gentlemen who had 
formed a part of his Cabinet assumed a very violent character after 
I left Washington. Those who have the curiosity to look into the 
matter will find that the dissolution of the Cabinet had been to all 
appearance, amicably accomplished. There was some little demur 
on the parts of the Secretaries of the Treasury and Navy to sending 
in their resignations, but in the end the correspondence, on its face 
imported a friendly settlement. All were to remain at their posts 
until their successors were appointed and their official business placed 
in the state in which they desired to leave it. The resignations, ex- 
cept Mr. Berrien's, who was absent till June, were in April, and the 
final retirement of the Cabinet was delayed until June. With the 
single exception of a few enigmatical givings-out by the Secretary of 
the Navy as to the existence of a "malign influence" everything 
seemed to be going on to a favorable issue. The hopes of those who 
felt an interest in the character of the Government and thought that 
it had been prejudiced by the quarrel, and of those who desired the 
success of General Jackson's administration began to revive. It was 
believed that the functions of Government were no longer to be per- 
formed in an atmosphere tainted by private scandal, and that the 
State was relieved from the defiling clutch of the gossips. In this 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN VAtf BURBN. 857 

condition of things I left Washington, but had scarcely reached my 
own State when the disease with which the Capital had so long la- 
bored broke out afresh and with redoubled fury. It is not easy to 
determine precisely who was most to blame for this new outbreak. It 
is certain that the fault was not altogether on either side: The U. 8. 
Telegraph newspaper, referred to the course pursued by the families 
of the three Cabinet Ministers towards the family of Major Eaton 
in an offensive way. This was indefensible and proved to be very 
mischievous. The Major, claiming to hold those gentlemen in some 
sense responsible for the course of the Telegraph in that matter, pub- 
lished an article in the Globe, obviously designed to 'bring Mr. 
Branch, who had left the city, to a fight. Eaton also copied the 
article from the Telegraph, in which ° the course said to have been 
pursued by their families was described as that of the gentlemen 
themselves, and sending the extract to Messrs. Ingham and Berrien, 
called upon them to avow or disavow its contents. His notes and 
extracts were in terms the same, and both admitted of no other con- 
struction than that the proceedings were intended as preliminary 
to a duel with each in certain events. This was also wrongs He 
had no right to hold them responsible for the publication in ques- 
tion and the assumption of such a responsibility was plainly a pre- 
tence thro' which to revive with them, in another form, a quarrel 
from which he had suffered much and to which he saw there was to be 
no end. Mr. Berrien answered his note on the basis of the article, 
as explained in an issue subsequent to the original publication, and 
by which its application was limited to the course of the families of 
members of the Cabinet, disclaimed his responsibility in explicit 
terms, but wisely decided to make a reply to the Major's alleged 
grievance. He did this coolly and admirably and in a way which 
obliged Eaton, whose good nature never entirely deserted him, to 
enter a nolle prosequi as respected the Attorney General, without the 
Slightest sacrifice of character or dignity on the part of either. 

Mr. Ingham, unhappily in a great rage, for which he certainly 
thought he had abundant cause, adopted the extract in the shape 
given to it originally and as it was sent to him, and replied to Ea- 
ton's demand that the latter " must be not a little deranged " to call 
upon him to disavow what all the inhabitants of Washington knew, 
and perhaps half the people of the United States believed to be true 
to wit: that he had refused to associate with his (Major Eaton's) 
family. A challenge was the consequence, and, that not being ac- 
cepted, preparations for a personal assault followed. Amidst dem- 
onstrations offensive and defensive connected with such an opera- 
tion the time arrived which the ex-Secretary of the Treasury had 

* MS. Ill, * 215. 



358 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

fixed upon for his departure .from Washington, and after having 
as he thought sufficiently exposed himself in the streets, accompanied 
by the gallant Col. Tow son, a friend or two and his son, the latter 
and himself, armed, he left the city. 

If no blood was spilled — which is somewhat remarkable in a 
quarrel upon so exciting a subject and kept on foot for two years — 
a sufficient quantity of ink certainly was shed upon the subject 
The Telegraph charged the President with "having seventeen months 
previously thro 9 a distinguished member of Congress, required the 
members of his Cabinet to associate with Mrs. Eaton, at least so 
far as to invite her to their large parties, on pain of dismissal. This 
was presented as a great abuse of office, as it certainly would have 
been. The Globe denied this charge, stigmatized it as a calumny 
and defied its author to the proof. No attempt to establish it being 
made the latter went further and declared that the member of Con- 
gress referred to was admitted to be Col. Richard M. Johnson, a 
man of proverbial benevolence, great bravery and undoubted verac- 
ity, that the Colonel denied the truth of the charge in the fullest 
manner, and that Mr. Berrien had, in his correspondence with 
Major Eaton, admitted the falsity of the charge. This brought 
out Mr. Berrien, who, after some parleying in respect to a promise 
he had made to Col. Johnson (who was at his home in Kentucky) 
to wait until an opportunity could be afforded to all the parties to 
compare recollections before publications were ° made, if any should 
be found necessary, denied the admission. Mr. Blair rejoined by set- 
ting forth the following declaration of Mr. Berrien to Major Eaton 
when speaking of his interview with the President in January 
1830 : — " In the interview to which I was invited by the President, 
some few days afterwards, I frankly exposed to him my views on 
the subject, and he disclaimed any disposition to press such a requisi- 
tion. 19 This Mr. Blair construed into an admission such as he Jiad 
claimed in the Globe. Mr. Berrien, in answer, insisted "that a 
disclaimer of an intention to press a requisition was a wholly dif- 
ferent thing from a denial of ever having made it," and here the cor- 
respondence between these parties, in which there had been a good 
deal of sharp shooting, terminated. But Messrs. Berrien, Ingham, 
Branch and Eaton all came out with impassioned and elaborate 
appeals to the public upon this question. The alacrity and zeal 
with which the authors of the charge entered upon its support and 
the labor and formality given to those quasi-State papers, denote 
the confident expectation of overthrowing the President by its in- 
fluence. Mr. Berrien in his voluminous publication — embracing 
the correspondence between himself and Major Eaton, his and Mr. 

* MB. Book IV, p. 1. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN VAN BUREN. 859 

Ingham's letters to Col. Johnson and Mr. Ingham's statement made 
from notes taken at the time, — spoke of the subject as one " of awak- 
ening interest to all." They affirmed that Col. Johnson came to them 
as from the President and representing his views and that he 
required, in his behalf, that they should invite Mrs. Eaton to their 
large parties on pain of dismissal* They denied that the President 
had shown them the paper of which I have spoken and which had 
been brought before the public by Mr. Blair, upon the authority 
of the President, who declared then that he had read it to them or 
made them acquainted with its contents, but Mr. Berrien stated that 
he did not question the intention of the President to have shewn 
this paper to him nor his belief that he did so, and they admitted 
that he had waived, in Mr. Berrien's language, had not " pressed," 
the requisition of which they charged that Col. Johnson had been the 
bearer, but understood this as a change of position brought about 
through the intervention of his Tennessee friends. 

Col. Johnson met these charges and statements by two letters ad- 
dressed to Messrs. Ingham and Berrien, separately, in reply to the 
letters they had written before their appeals to the public. His 
letters were published in the National Intelligencer, newspaper; and 
the following is a brief extract from that to Mr. Berrien : — 

Oakland, (Kt.) July 20th, 1831. 
Deab Sib: 

Tour favor of the 7th infltant has been received. I find that you under- 
stood me to say that the President would at least expect the Invitation of 
Mrs. Eaton when you gave large and general parties. The President never 
did, directly or Indirectly, express or intimate such an expectation. He in- 
formed me that he had been induced to believe that a part of his Cabinet had 
entered into a combination to drive Maj. Baton from it, by excluding him 
and his family from society; that he had been also informed that the succes- 
sive parties to which you allude was a link in the chain ; that attempts had 
been made even upon foreign ministers to exclude Maj. Baton from their par- 
ties; and such a state of tilings gave him great distress; that he was deter- 
mined at all hazards to have harmony in his Cabinet. He then read a paper 
containing the principles upon which he intended to act. In my conversation 
with you I referred to this paper. No doubt it is now in existence. It dis- 
claimed all intentions, on the part of the President, to regulate in any man- 
ner whatever, the private or social intercourse of the members of his Cab- 
inet As a mutual friend I called upon you, and as a peacemaker, my object 
was to make the above communication in the most delicate manner possible. 
During our conversation, in the anxiety of my heart to serve my friend and 
my Country, it was I alone, upon my own responsibility, who made the sugges- 
tion or proposition or rather enquiry whether you could not, at those large and 
promiscuous parties, invite Maj. Baton and his family. From the total social 
non-intercourse of the members of the Cabinet the want of harmony was in- 
ferred, more than from any other circumstance; and my desire was to remedy 
that evil by the suggestion or inquiry which I made. It would have been an 
absolute unqualified and total misrepresentation of his views if I had repre- 
sented the President as making any such demand. 



860 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

From Col. Johnson's letter to Mr. Ingham I extract as follows:— 

Blub Springs, July 31, 1831. 
Deab Sir— 

Yours of the 16th instant was this day received, accompanied by a statement 
which, it seems, yon have prepared for the public, purporting to contain separate 
conversations, with the President and myself, relative to an allegation made in 
the public journals that General Jackson had authorized a member of Congress 
to require of Messrs. Berrien, Branch, and yourself, and your families, to asso- 
ciate with Major Baton, and his family under the penalty of being dismissed 
from office. You refer to two articles in the Globe to justify your appeal to the 
public, previously to receiving my answer, in which it appeared that I had de- 
nied the above allegation, if it had any allusion to me. After the publication of 
this accusation against General Jackson, I received a letter from a friend, in- 
timating that I was the member of Congress to whom allusion was made, and 
requested to know if I had ever made such a communication. In my answer I 
confined myself to the specific accusation thus publicly made against the Presi- 
dent, and which is attributable to yourself, and most unequivocally denied that 
General Jackson ever made such a requisition through me, and as positively de- 
nied having ever made such a statement to you. On the contrary I asserted and 
now repeat, I did Inform you, in each and every interview that the President 
disclaimed any right or intention to interfere in any manner whatever with the 
regulation of your private or social intercourse. 

Thus in a' matter in which I was engaged to serve you, and other friends, 
in a matter of a delicate and highly confidential nature, and in which I suc- 
ceeded, unexpectedly I found myself presented In the public Journals as a 
witness impeaching one of those friends, and ascribing to him declarations 
which he never made; and placed in that attitude by you, self respect and 
self defence caned upon me to correct that erroneous statement I cannot, 
therefore, agree with you, that I did in any degree change my view of the 
subject in considering it improper in any of the parties to come before the 
public without the opportunity of comparing our different recollections. 
But if you feel under any obligations of a personal or political character 
to come before the public previously, you will find me as ready as yourself 
to meet any responsibility or difficulty which such a course may produce. 
I now come to the material point in controversy — whether Gen. Jackson, 
through me, required of you to invite Major Eaton and his family to your 
large parties. This suggestion was made upon my own responsibility, with 
an anxious desire more effectually to reconcile the then existing difficulties. 
But Gen. Jackson never did make such a requisition, in any manner what- 
ever, directly or Indirectly, nor did I ever intimate to you that he had made — 
such a demand. The complaint made by Gen. Jackson against this part of his 
Cabinet was specific, that he had been informed, and was induced to believe, 
that they were using their influence to have Major Baton and his family ex- 
cluded from ail respectable circles, for the purpose of degrading him, and 
thus drive him from office; and that the attempt had been made even upon 
the foreign ministers, and in one case had produced the desired effect He 
proposed no mode of accommodation or satisfaction, but declared expressly that 
if such was the fact he would dismiss them from office. He then read to me 
a paper containing the principles upon which he intended to act; which dis- 
claimed the right to interfere with the social relations of his Cabinet 

• MS. IV, p. 5. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MABTIN VAK BUBEN. 86 1 

Such was the issue between the President and the three ex-Secre- 
taries, and such were their respective allegations and proof. It 
was never pretended that the requisition referred to had ever been 
made upon them by the President in person or thro' any other chan- 
nel than Col. Johnson. In the only conversation they had had with 
him upon the subject, seventeen months before they resigned, they 
say he did not press it — he says he disclaimed it in the most un- 
equivocal terms. Col. Johnson's statement is the only evidence that 
was introduced and notwithstanding the formality and confidence 
with which this grave accusation had been brought forward and 
the zeal with which it was supported by the entire opposition of the 
Country, the public judgment was so clear and so decided that in 
the General's canvass for re-election, which took place the very 
next year, when everything else was raked up, it was never alluded to. 

A few words more in respect to myself. Whilst at New York and 
on the eve of sailing for England I received a letter from the Presi- 
dent inquiring as to my recollections upon this branch of the general 
subject, which I gave him in a letter, dated August 14th, 1831, the 
whole of which together with the letter to which it was a reply, will 
be found in the Correspondence. 1 

My statement was never published as the President, I was happy 
to find, adopted the advice I gave him. 

The following extract embraces what relates to the present matter : 

I will in the first place answer your queries in regard to the interview be- 
tween Messrs. Ingham, Branch & Berrien & yourself upon the subject of their 
course towards Mr. & Mrs. Eaton. Neither with those gentlemen, nor with 
Colonel Johnson have I had any conversation, confidential or otherwise, upon 
that subject. I recollect your sending for me one morning & that when I ar- 
rived I found you sensibly affected by an impression which had been made 
upon your mind that Messrs. Ingham, Branch & Berrien were taking measures 
in concert to exclude Mrs. Eaton from the society of Washington. You stated 
to me in a general way the grounds upon which that impression was founded, 
referring to several successive parties which had been given by those gentle- 
men, & to information which had been given to you by others without warn- 
ing them, and declared that you felt it to be your duty & had made up your 
mind to interfere in a prompt & efficacious manner & put an end to the pro- 
ceedings of which you complained. You then shewed me a paper which, ac- 
cording to my recollections, was in the form of a letter addressed to those 
gentlemen, expressive of your views & feelings on the subject. 

I do not remember to have seen that letter since & cannot undertake to state 
with certainty its form or contents. In one respect, however, I can, from the 
circumstance I am about to state, speak with more precision. I recollect that 
upon reading the paper, it appeared to me that the manner in which you ex- 
pressed yourself might be construed into an attempt on your part to control 
those gentlemen In their personal associations, which I believed to be foreign 

'Jackson's letter of Aug. 8, 1881, and Van Bnren'g antograpn signed reply, Aug. 14, 
*re in the Van Baren Papers. 



362 AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. 

to your wishes, and under that impression I suggested to you the propriety of 
being altogether explicit upon that point You at once disclaimed such a wish 
& expressed a readiness so to modify the paper as to disavow any such 
intention, and to confine your complaint in terms to the supposed concert 
on the part of those gentlemen to effect the object referred to, a course of 
conduct which you regarded as not only unjust towards Mr. & Mrs. Eaton, but 
as being a direct attack upon yourself for continuing in your Cabinet a gentle- 
man towards whose family such steps could be deemed justifiable. Expressions 
to that effect were introduced in the paper which were I thought sufficient to 
prevent misapprehensions with regard to your views. It is my impression that 
I took the further liberty of suggesting to you the propriety of substituting a 
personal interview & a frank & free communication of your sentiments in 
preference to a formal correspondence upon the subject, adding that you might 
in that case also have the grounds you intended to take previously stated In 
writing, that there might be less room for misapprehension upon a point which 
we both regarded as one of great delicacy. 

I left you, according to my best recollection, either positively decided or at 
least strongly inclined to adopt that course. It may be that the paper was 
drawn up whilst I was with you & that my observations were founded upon 
your declarations as to what you intended to say, — but my best recollection Is 
as I have stated. Since that time I have not seen the paper referred to, nor 
have I, my dear Sir, the slightest recollection that the subject was at any time 
afterwards made matter of observation between us. It is quite natural to 
suppose that such may have been the case, but I have, before as well as since 
the receipt of your letter, thought much upon the subject & I cannot call to 
mind anything that passed between us in regard to your interviews with 
Messrs. Ingham, Branch & Berrien, after they had taken place. It may well 
be that you informed me of what had transpired at them — but if you did it has 
certainly escaped my recollection ; and my belief is that the matter being, as 
you hoped, finally disposed of & influenced by a wish, which you have always 
manifested, not to press the general subject unnecessarily upon my attention, 
you thought it best to drop it altogether. 

I do not pretend to be accurate as to words but believe that I am right as 
to the substance of what I have stated. It is quite possible Qiat I may have 
forgotten some things & that I am mistaken in others; & under the pressure 
of public duties in which I was then engaged it would not be strange if it 
were so ; but I give it to you as I have it — wishing only to be excused for the 
confused manner in which it is done, & which the circumstances under which 
I write render almost unavoidable. 

One word more upon this subject. The anxiety of your friends that you 
should not suffer your